Tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees rallied to mark the second anniversary of their exodus out of Myanmar.
Almost 200,000 Rohingya participated in a peaceful gathering, which was attended by UN officials, at the Kutupalong camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar on Sunday.
More than a million Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar’s Rakhine state now live in southern Bangladesh in the world’s largest refugee settlement. The majority having fled military-led violence in 2017 that the United Nations says was executed with “genocidal intent”.
Refugees say Myanmar’s security forces and Buddhist civilians carried out mass killings and gang rapes during weeks of “clearance operations”. Myanmar has denied the charges, saying only that the military was conducting legitimate operations against Rohingya insurgents who attacked police posts.
The rally was held days after Bangladesh, with the help of the U.N. refugee agency, attempted to begin the repatriation of some 3,000 Rohingyas. But none of the refugees agreed to return to Myanmar without being granted a citizenship and guaranteed basic rights.
The UNHCR said that building confidence was essential for repatriation.
For centuries, Myanmar has refused to recognize the Rohingya as legitimate residents of the country. They were denied citizenship and subjected to tight restrictions on freedom of movement.
A U.N investigation last year recommended the prosecution of Myanmar’s top military commanders on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity for the crackdown but Myanmar rejected the allegations.
Last week, another U.N. fact-finding mission on Myanmar released a new report concluding that rapes of Rohingya women by the state security forces were systemic and demonstrated the intent to commit genocide.