‘The talk until now has been of hundreds of deaths… we could be looking at thousands’
Two unnamed UN officials told the Reuters news agency that the Burmese authorities may have killed more than 1,000 Rohingya Muslims during a recent crackdown on the minority group in the northeast Rakhine state.
In October last year, militant elements of the Rohingya were accused of attacking police border posts which prompted the Burmese Authorities to launch a military campaign against the group.
Claims have been made that the Burmese government has committed crimes against humanity, specifically raping and murdering women and children. The government has denied these claims despite accepting reports that it has killed some Rohingyas in the crackdown.
UN officials estimate a higher number of deaths:
The two UN officials Reuters spoke to are senior members in different agencies tasked with monitoring the situation in Burma.
They expressed their concern that the world hasn’t fully grasped the number of victims. “We could be looking at thousands (of deaths)” they added, significantly increasing the number from the thought before hundreds.
Zaw Htay, Myanmar’s presidential spokesman, quoted military commanders’ reports claiming that fewer than 100 Rohingya militants have been killed in a counterinsurgency operation.
He was asked about the UN officials’ comments stating that the death toll might be over 1,000, he said: “Their number is much greater than our figure. We have to check on the ground.”
Pope Francis speaks up:
Pope Francis stood with the Rohingya Muslims’ right to live free from persecution in a statement he issued earlier.
“The Rohingyas have been tortured and killed simply because they want to live their culture and their Muslim faith”, he added in a clear attack to the Burmese regime.
These remarks the Pope made during his weekly address, clearly refer to the UN report which detailed claims of abuse, rape and murder of Rohingyas at the hands of the Burmese military.
The most oppressed people on Earth
The Rohingyas are denied access to university education and were singled with a two-child policy in 2013 by the Burmese government prompting the UN to name them as “the most oppressed people on Earth”.
However, reports from several NGOs and the strong worded UN report, and the stream of NGO reporting on the Rohingyas’ plight, there isn’t much international condemnation.