Human rights defenders have warned that the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, plaguing the Muslim minority population since at least 2014, continues to inch toward possible genocide as a government security crackdown endangers their lives, causing many to flee to nearby Bangladesh — if they aren’t caught and murdered in the crosshairs of an ongoing conflict.
Amid these growing reports of abuse, U.N. human rights envoy Yanghee Lee embarked Monday on a 12-day visit to the country.
Lee will visit the north of Rakhine state, where the military operation is taking place, the commercial hub Yangon, the capital Naypyidaw and Kachin state in the north, where government forces are battling autonomy-seeking ethnic Kachin guerrillas, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement.
A coordinated attack on Oct. 9 that killed nine police officers resulted in a military response that has killed at least 86 people since.
Since the beginning of the conflict, at least 34,000 civilians have fled the country. Both Rohingya residents and refugees accuse the military of killing, raping and arbitrarily detaining civilians while burning villages in northwestern Rakhine state.
The government is led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who has an icy response to the issue, denying the human rights abuses and insisting a lawful counterinsurgency operation is underway.
"The events of the last few months have shown that the international community must remain vigilant in monitoring the human rights situation," Lee, the U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said in the statement.
However, much of that monitoring remains difficult, as the government has restricted aid to the northern Rakhine state, where most people are Rohingya Muslims, who are denied citizenship in Myanmar. The state has also prevented independent journalists from visiting.