In Depth

UN fears at least 1,000 Rohingya Muslims slayed in Myanmar

Officials concerned that outside world does not appreciate severity of crisis

Two senior United Nations officials have reported that more than 1,000 Rohingya Muslims may have been killed in a Myanmar army crackdown – far worse than the number previously thought.

What is happening in Rakhine?

Around 70,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh in recent months following an army crackdown north of Rakhine state, reports The Guardian. Myanmar's army began clearance operations of Rohingya from northern Rakhine during searches for insurgents thought to have masterminded deadly raids on police border posts in October. Violence, including gang rapes and mass murders, against the group is said to be so severe that it "could amount to crimes against humanity", says the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).

What have UN officials said?

Two officials from separate UN agencies based in Bangladesh have spoken out amid concern that there is a lack of international understanding about the severity of the crisis. Both say that evidence collected from refugees over the past four months suggests that the death toll is likely to have exceeded 1,000.

"The talk until now has been of hundreds of deaths. This is probably an underestimation – we could be looking at thousands," said one of the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity.

What is the President saying?

A spokesman for President Htin Kyaw disputed the UN reports, claiming that his military commanders believe fewer than 100 people have been killed in the counterinsurgency operation, but added: "We have to check on the ground."

"The government led by Aung San Suu Kyi said last week it would investigate the allegations in the report. It has previously denied almost all accusations of killings, rapes and arson," says The Guardian. "But mounting evidence of atrocities by the army puts Suu Kyi, who has no control over the armed forces under a constitution written by the previous military government, in a difficult position."

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