UN official says Rohingya crisis has 'hallmarks of genocide'

SEOUL, South Korea — The U.N. special envoy on human rights in Myanmar said Thursday that the Myanmar military's violent operations against Rohingya Muslims bear "the hallmarks of a genocide."

Yanghee Lee told reporters in Seoul, where she is based, that she couldn't make a definitive declaration about genocide until a credible international tribunal or court had weighed the evidence, but "we are seeing signs and it is building up to that."

Her briefing described her recent visit to refugee camps in Bangladesh and other areas in the region to discuss the Rohingya, a percecuted Muslim minority in Myanmar. Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled their villages into Bangladesh since the Myanmar military's crackdown following Aug. 25 attacks by Rohingya insurgents. The government of Myanmar has refused her entrance to the country.

Responding to a question about an Associated Press report Thursday that details a massacre and at least five mass graves in the Myanmar village of Gu Dar Pyin, Lee said that while she didn't have specific details on the village, "you can see it's a pattern" that has emerged with the Rohingya.

She said such reports must be investigated, "and this is why we've called for a fact finding mission ... and access for international media to" the areas in northern Rakhine state where the Rohingya live.

Lee said that Myanmar's actions were "amounting to crimes against humanity."

"These are part of the hallmarks of a genocide," she said.

"I think Myanmar needs to get rid of this baggage of 'did you or did you not,' and if proven that they did, then there has to be responsibility and accountability. No stones must be left unturned because the people, the victims, the families of the victims definitely deserve an answer," she said.

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