The UN has said Myanmar's army is involved in a "systematic" effort to rid the country of Rohingya. Around half of the Rohingya population has been forced into Bangladesh.
Myanmar's army has carried out "well-organized, coordinated and systematic" attacks on Rohingya aimed at expelling them and ensuring they never return, the United Nations said Wednesday.
In its first major report on violence in Rakhine state, the UN Human Rights Office said security forces had murdered, raped, tortured, pillaged and burned down Rohingya villages and crops.
"Credible information indicates that the Myanmar security forces purposely destroyed the property of the Rohingyas, scorched their dwellings and entire villages in northern Rakhine State, not only to drive the population out in droves but also to prevent the fleeing Rohingya victims from returning to their homes," the report states.
The findings are based on UN investigators' interviews with dozens of Rohingya Muslims and groups conducted in mid-September.
The report cites evidence that "clearance operations" started in the beginning of August, countering the Myanmar government's position that the army acted after Rohingya militants attacked security posts on August 25.
Armed Buddhist ethnic Rakhine "mobs" also participated in the violence that has driven nearly 500,000 Rohingya Muslims into squalid refugee camps in Bangladesh since August.
Wiping out a people
UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, who previously called the crackdown "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing," called the army's actions "a cynical ploy to forcibly transfer large numbers of people without possibility of return."
The report said that teachers, cultural and religious leaders were targeted "in an effort to diminish Rohingya history, culture and knowledge."
"Efforts were taken to effectively erase signs of memorable landmarks in the geography of the Rohingya landscape and memory in such a way that a return to their lands would yield nothing but a desolate and unrecognizable terrain," it added.
Young girls were raped by men "all dressed in army uniforms" in front of their families, civilians shot at close range or in the back as they fled, and people burned alive, the report said.
The UN said there was evidence to suggest military operations are ongoing despite government claims they have ended.
Myanmar's government does not consider Rohingya citizens, referring to them instead as Bengalis from Bangladesh, despite their presence in the country for decades.
The government says it is cracking down on the Rohingya militants.
cw/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)