Dalai Lama joins international call to end violence against Rohingya
September 11, 2017

The Telegraph, September 11, 2017 – The UN human rights chief on Monday slammed Burma’s apparent “systematic attack” on the Rohingya minority, warning that “ethnic cleansing” seemed to be underway.

“Because Myanmar has refused access to human rights investigators the current situation cannot yet be fully assessed, but the situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing,” Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein told the UN Human Rights Council.

The condemnation came as the Dalai Lama also spoke out for the first time about the Rohingya refugee crisis, saying Buddha would have helped Muslims fleeing violence in Buddhist-majority Burma.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh in recent weeks after violence flared in neighbouring Burma, also known as Myanmar, where the stateless Muslim minority has endured decades of persecution.

The top Buddhist leader is the latest Nobel peace laureate to speak out against the violence, which the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Burma says may have killed more than 1,000 people, most of them Rohingya.

“Those people who are sort of harassing some Muslims, they should remember Buddha,” the Dalai Lama told journalists who asked him about the crisis on Friday evening.

“He would definitely give help to those poor Muslims. So still I feel that. So very sad.”

The United Nations says 294,000 bedraggled and exhausted Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since the militants’ attacks on Burma security forces in neighbouring Rakhine state on August 25 sparked a major military backlash.

Tens of thousands more are believed to be on the move inside Rakhine after more than two weeks without shelter, food and water.

“The operation… is clearly disproportionate and without regard for basic principles of international law,” Mr Zeid said.

“We have received multiple reports and satellite imagery of security forces and local militia burning Rohingya villages, and consistent accounts of extrajudicial killings, including shooting fleeing civilians,” he said.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s government has come in for strong international criticism over the military’s treatment of the Rohingya.

“I call on the government to end its current cruel military operation, with accountability for all violations that have occurred and to reverse the pattern of severe and widespread discrimination against the Rohingya population,” Mr Zeid said.

He said he was particularly “appalled” by reports that Burmese authorities had begun laying landmines along the border with Bangladesh to prevent those who fled from returning.

He also criticised “official statements that refugees who have fled the violence will only be allowed back if they can provide ‘proof of nationality’,” pointing out that Burma since 1962 had been stripping Rohingyas of a wide range of rights, including citizenship rights.

“This measure resembles a cynical ploy to forcibly transfer large numbers of people without possibility of return,” he said.

Mr Zeid urged the Burma government to “stop pretending that the Rohingyas are setting fire to their own homes and laying waste to their own villages.”

“This complete denial of reality is doing great damage to the international standing of a government which, until recently, benefited from immense good will,” he said, calling on authorities to allow his office access to investigate the situation in the country.

Burma’s population is overwhelmingly Buddhist and there is widespread hatred for the Rohingya, who are denied citizenship and labelled illegal “Bengali” immigrants. Buddhist nationalists, led by firebrand monks, have operated a long Islamophobic campaign calling for them to be pushed out of the country.

Burma’s de facto civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been condemned for her refusal to intervene in support of the Rohingya, including by fellow Nobel laureates Malala Yousafzai and Desmond Tutu.

Archbishop Tutu, who became the moral voice of South Africa after helping dismantle apartheid there, last week urged her to speak out.

“If the political price of your ascension to the highest office in Myanmar is your silence, the price is surely too steep,” Tutu said in a statement.