Islamic countries to form contact group for Rohingya crisis: Iran envoy

Press TV – The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is set to form a contact group to help put an end to the ongoing atrocities against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Iran’s ambassador to the UN says.

“Over the past days, I have made several contacts with the envoys of Muslim countries, and a group named ‘the contact group of Islamic countries’ was agreed to be formed at the level of ministers and ambassadors,” Gholam-Ali Khoshrou said in a Wednesday interview with IRNA.

Meanwhile, the Islamic countries have started one-on-one contacts with the parties to the conflict, Khoshrou pointed out.

The Iranian envoy condemned the ongoing crimes against Rohingya Muslims, saying, “Everyone should devote efforts to prevent this human catastrophe.”

Khoshrou underlined the need to end the pressure on Rohingya Muslims and deliver humanitarian assistance to them as the first immediate steps in the conflict resolution process, adding that the next step should be efforts towards the recognition of Rohingya Muslims’ right to have a “dignified life” in their homeland.

Myanmar’s forces have been attacking Rohingya Muslims and torching their villages in Rakhine State since October 2016. The attacks have seen a sharp rise since August 25, following a number of armed attacks on police and military posts in the troubled western state.

The country’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Ky has ignored international demands to call off the operation.

The Rohingya have also been subject to communal violence by extremist Buddhists for years, forcing large groups of Muslims to flee their homeland to take refuge in Bangladesh and other neighboring countries.

The latest eruption of violence in Rakhine has killed more than 400 people and triggered an exodus of the Rohingya to Bangladesh.

Rohingya refugees from Myanmar’s Rakhine State wait for aid at Kutupalong refugee camp in the Bangladeshi town of Teknaf on September 5, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Human Rights Watch earlier said satellite imagery showed 700 buildings were burned in the Rohingya village of Chein Khar Li, just one of the 17 locations in Rakhine where the rights group has documented burning of homes and property. It blamed Myanmarese forces for the fires.

UN warns of exodus of 300,000 Rohingya

On Wednesday, Dipayan Bhattacharyya, who is Bangladesh spokesman for the World Food Program (WFP), said the UN officials have raised their estimate of the total expected Rohingya refugees fleeing to Bangladesh from 120,000 to 300,000.

“They are coming in nutritionally deprived, they have been cut off from a normal flow of food for possibly more than a month. They were definitely visibly hungry, traumatized,” Reuters quoted Bhattacharyya as saying.

According to UN workers in Bangladesh’s border region of Cox’s Bazar, arrivals have already reached 146,000 over the past 12 days.

The refugees who are fleeing Myanmar’s army operations are arriving by boat as well as crossing the land border at numerous points, Bhattacharyya said.

On Tuesday UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned the Security Council that the ongoing violence in Myanmar could spiral into a “humanitarian catastrophe.”

The WFP estimates that it would need $13.3 million in additional funding to provide basic food rations for four months.

Bhattacharyya urged the donors to urgently provide the fund, noting, “If they do not come forward now, we may see that these people would be fighting for food among themselves, the crime rate would go up, violence against women and on children would go up.”

Myanmar’s government brands more than one million Rohingya Muslims in the country as “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh. Rohingya Muslims, however, have had roots in the country that go back centuries. They are considered by the UN the “most persecuted minority group in the world.”

There have been numerous eyewitness accounts of summary executions, rapes, and arson attacks by the military since the crackdown against the minority group began.

Myanmar’s forces have reportedly been putting landmines in their territory along the barbed-wire fence between a series of border pillars over the past three days in an attempt to prevent the return of the Rohingya who have already fled to Bangladesh.

The UN believes the government of Myanmar might have committed ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in its crackdown.