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Minors, single females vulnerable to trafficking, sexual violence: UN Report 

'Rohingya mass exodus burden too heavy to bear in future'

AKM Moinuddin, UNB Staff Writer 

Thursday 12 October, 2017 11:28:16 am

Minors, single females vulnerable to trafficking, sexual violence: UN Report 

Dhaka, Oct 12 (UNB) - Unaccompanied minors and single female heads of Rohingya families who fled to Bangladesh might become victims of trafficking and sexual violence, says a new report on Wednesday. 

"There are serious protection concerns regarding the immediate needs of the most vulnerable, and it is important to establish a permanent presence at the boat landing sites as part of the immediate humanitarian response," says the UN report, a copy of which was seen by UNB. 

Despite untiring efforts on the part of the Bangladesh government and aid agencies, the burden of the Rohingya mass exodus is too heavy to bear in the immediate future, the report said. 

The report, released on Wednesday, is based on some 65 interviews with individuals and groups. 

In the framework of the OHCHR’s rapid response capacity, three OHCHR staff were deployed to Bangladesh from September 13-24. The OHCHR is the UN’s head of human rights. 

The mandate of the team was to monitor the situation of the newly arrived Rohingya population as well as to establish the facts and circumstances in northern Rakhine in the aftermath of August 25, with a specific focus on the Buthidaung, Rathedaung and Maungdaw townships, reportedly the most affected by the eruption of violence. 

Highlighting the upcoming risks and challenges, the report said the vast majority of those interviewed suffered multiple human rights violations. 

Many reported having been first internally displaced, sometimes moving between several villages, before trying to cross the border into Bangladesh, often after being attacked by the Myanmar security forces in the abandoned villages or on hillsides. 

The majority of eyewitness accounts referred to violations allegedly perpetrated by the Myanmar security forces often through joint operations with Rakhine’s Buddhist militias.

Testimonies referred to apparently well-organised and coordinated action, where first the Myanmar security forces came into a village followed by the militias using knives or machetes to inflict death, injury or damage.

The “clearance operations” started before August 25, and as early as the beginning of August, corroborating a claim made by Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali on Tuesday. 

The testimonies gathered by the OHCHR team, meanwhile, indicated that the attacks against Rohingya villages constitute serious human rights violations. 

As recalled by many victims, the security forces and the Rakhine Buddhist individuals incited hatred, violence and killings against the Rohingya population within northern Rakhine through extremely derogatory abuse based on their religion, language and culture and ethnic identity. 

There are indications that violence is still ongoing at the time of writing this report. Several Rohingyas expressed fear for their lives and grave reservations over the possibility of returning to their homeland in Myanmar. 

The information gathered also indicates however that some sections of the Rohingya population currently present in Bangladesh might be willing to return to their villages despite widespread destruction, provided the following conditions are met by the Government of Myanmar.

The conditions are provision of Myanmar citizenship; respect for civil, political, economic, cultural and social rights; compensation for loss of livelihood; accountability for human rights violations suffered; and deployment of UN peacekeeping operations to ensure the safety of the Rohingya people in Myanmar. 

A few interviewees also mentioned the need for the implementation of recommendations made by the Kofi Annan-headed Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. The Rohingya population continues to face severe challenges in the camps in Bangladesh. The health and sanitation conditions are critical and described by on-site medical doctors as ‘a perfect storm in the making’. 

Credible information gathered indicated that the destruction of Rohingya villages in northern Rakhine State, and other serious human rights violations committed in the aftermath of the 25 August attacks, were executed in a well-organised, coordinated, and systematic manner, reads the report.

The manner in which the villages, homes and property of the Rohingya across northern Rakhine has been destroyed points to it being well-organised and coordinated, thereby challenging the assertion that it was merely collateral damage of the military security operations following the alleged attack against police outposts and on a regimental headquarter across locations in northern Rakhine State, allegedly by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). 

The destruction by the Tatmadaw of houses, fields, food-stocks, crops, livestock and even trees, render the possibility of the Rohingya returning to normal lives and livelihoods in the future in northern Rakhine almost impossible, the UN said in its report.  

It also indicates an effort to effectively erase all signs of memorable landmarks in the geography of the Rohingya landscape and memory in such a way that a return to their lands would yield nothing but a desolate and unrecognizable terrain. 

Information received also indicates that the Myanmar security forces targeted teachers, the cultural and religious leadership, and other people of influence in the Rohingya community in an effort to diminish Rohingya history, culture and knowledge.

The report also highlighted that prior to the incidents and crackdown of 25 August, a strategy  was pursued to arrest and arbitrarily detain male Rohingyas between the ages of 15-40 years; arrest and arbitrarily detain Rohingya opinion-makers, leaders and cultural and religious personalities; initiate acts to deprive Rohingya villagers of access to food, livelihoods and other means of conducting daily activities and life; commit repeated acts of humiliation and violence prior to, during and after 25 August, to drive out Rohingya villagers en masse through incitement to hatred, violence and killings, including  by declaring the Rohingyas as Bengalis and illegal settlers in Myanmar; instil deep and widespread fear and trauma – physical, emotional and psychological, in the Rohingya victims via acts of brutality, namely killings, disappearances, torture, and rape and other forms of sexual violence.