The abuse and persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority people in Myanmar's Rakhine state may have been more expansive and brutal, a flurry of reports have shown. The UN authorities revealed the Burmese government agencies may have killed more than 1,000 Rohingya Muslims in recent months following an attack on the army outpost in Myanmar. Human Rights Watch said the Myanmar military unleashed sexual violence on the 'stateless' Rohingya people and systematic gang-rapes were common. The rights watchdog said even children were murdered.
Meanwhile, authorities in Myanmar said on Friday three police officers were sentenced to two months' in prison after they were found abusing Rohingya civilians. However, the government agencies said the officers had "no intention" to cause harm, confirming fears that the government's action could be cosmetic, coming under growing international pressure.
The latest Rohingya exodus started four months ago when alleged extremist factions within the minority community launched an attack on a military outpost killing nearly 10 soldiers. Myanmar retaliated by killing dozens of insurgents. Making matters worse, Bangladesh blocked its borders, trapping the fleeing Muslim minority in no-man's land. More than 70,000 people have fled to southern Bangladesh, triggering a humanitarian disaster.
On Thursday, Pope Francis lashed out at the Myanmar government for the atrocities committed against the Rohingya people. The Catholic patriarch said the Rohingya are targeted "because they want to live their culture and their Muslim faith".
The Burmese government, which justifies the military campaign against the Muslim minority, however, denies the serious allegations of rape and ethnic cleansing. "Their number is much greater than our figure. We have to check on the ground," presidential spokesman Zaw Htay said, responding to the UN report that more than 1000 have died since October.
The UN has termed the Rohingya as the most oppressed people in the world.' The crisis has remained unsolved for decades despite international rights agencies raising voice against their suppression in a land where they have lived for generations.
The Buddhist nationalists in Myanmar call Rohingya illegal immigrants from Bangladesh while rights organisations call them one of the world's most persecuted peoples. The 1.1 million stateless Rohingya people in Myanmar say they belong there as their predecessors have lived in the country for generations. Thousands of Rohingya people live in refugee camps, in deplorable conditions.
A bloody uprising and its devastating backlash in 2012 had killed more than 100 Rohingya and sent about 120,000 refugees into Bangladesh.