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A UN Official Compared Rohingya Living Conditions to Nazi Concentration Camps

“Let’s call it what it is,” he said.

by Meera Navlakha
08 July 2019, 1:56am

This article originally appeared on VICE Asia

A United Nations investigator has likened the living conditions of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar to that of concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Europe. Christopher Sidoti, a member of the UN’s team for fact-finding on crimes against the Rohingya, has brought forth new allegations which illustrate just how severe the circumstances are.

“These are concentration camps – let’s call it what it is – with 128,000 internally displaced people in central Rakhine,” said Sidoti at University College London’s conference on the Rohingya crisis.

Sidoti's team has already accused Myanmar’s military of genocide last year. The conference, at which he was a keynote speaker, aimed to examine the Rohingya people in context to the trauma, violence, and human rights violations they have consistently faced.

Sidoti went on to describe the camps as “urban ghettos like those Jews lived in under Nazi-occupied Europe.” He said that the “genocidal intent” of the military has only risen in the past few years.

The UN alleges that the civilians in Rakhine may be suffering new war crimes as the conflict between the military and rebel groups in the area escalates.

The Rohingya people have faced the wrath of an ethnic-cleansing mission at the hands of the Burmese military for years. They've been described as the most persecuted minority in the world.

Sidoti estimates that only 400,000 to 500,000 Rohingya remain in Myanmar today. This is a drastic change from 2012, when there were about 2-3 million Rohingya living there.

Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on Myanmar, told The Guardian that the situation in Rakhine is worsening, and “the impact on civilians is devastating.” Lee pressed that the UN needs to draw up a resolution condemning Myanmar's military as quickly as possible. She has been banned from visiting Myanmar by the government, for her reports which reveal the gravity of the situation in the country.

“The military may have achieved their purpose – the makeup of the Rakhine state has changed,” said Sidoti, “but the crisis is not over.”

Reportedly, the villagers have all aspects of their movement restricted. The Rohingya people held in these camps need written permission to marry, have children, go to the hospital and even travel – no matter how small the distance. Sidoti says that these processes have been implemented with a purpose.

“The whole thing has been calculated to watch them fade away,” he added.

The persecution of minorities is being scrutinized globally, from China’s war on the Uighur Muslims to Chechnya’s purge of gay men. It's 2019 and yet we continue to hear stories of identity-based detainment. While not officially labeled as concentration camps, the conditions under which these groups are being kept seem far too similar.