The UN’s human rights chief on Wednesday voiced "strong suspicions" that Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingya might be the victims of genocide and continued “ethnic cleansing".
"My office believes that ethnic cleansing is still underway in Rakhine state," in Myanmar, High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein told the UN Human Rights Council.
Noting that the Rohingya have reported killings, rape, torture, and abductions by security forces and local militia, Hussein highlighted "apparently deliberate attempts to force the Rohingya to leave the area through starvation, with officials blocking their access to crops and food supplies".
"My office has strong suspicions that acts of genocide may have taken place in Rakhine state since August ", Hussein said.
The commissioner also decried authorities in Myanmar destroying potential evidence of international crimes, citing "reports that Rohingya villages which were attacked in recent years, and alleged mass graves of the victims, are being bulldozed".
He added: "This appears to be a deliberate attempt by the authorities to destroy potential evidence of international crimes."
"Access for independent human rights monitoring is practically non-existent across Myanmar, but it appears clear that longstanding discriminatory policies and practices also continue against other groups," Hussein said.
World's most persecuted people
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, more than 750,000 refugees, mostly children and women, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community, according to Amnesty International.
The refugees are fleeing a military operation in which security forces and Buddhist mobs have killed men, women and children, looted homes, and torched Rohingya villages.
At least 9,000 Rohingya were killed in Rakhine state from Aug. 25 to Sept. 24 last year, according to Doctors Without Borders.
In a report published last Dec. 12, the doctors' group said the deaths of 71.7 percent or 6,700 Rohingya were caused by violence. They include 730 children below the age of five.
The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.