World can’t ignore suffering of Rohingya: UNICEF

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UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore urged international community to take steps to end the suffering of more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children.

A top UN official has said that international community cannot be silent in the face of suffering of persecuted Rohingya Muslims' children in Myanmar.

"[We cannot ignore] the suffering faced by the [Rohingya] refugees currently sheltering in Bangladesh," said Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF, at a forum late Monday in Myanmar's capital, Naypyitaw.

"We must work together to find a peaceful future for all," added Fore, the first top UNICEF official to have visited Myanmar in 30 years.

The UNICEF chief asked Myanmar to take steps to "rebuild the trust that is fundamental to every society."

"But reconciliation must follow accountability," she said, referring to persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar's Rakhine state over the years.

Fore asked the Buddhist-majority country to roll out of a "universal maternal and child cash transfer" program in Rakhine and "ensure all children receive a birth certificate."

She also called for implementation of recommendations made by an advisory commission on children in Rakhine.

"But as we discuss the next steps in our work together, I also hope to hear how the children most in need -- the children in the conflict-affected areas of the country, the hard-to-reach children, the children who are marginalized and suffer discrimination -- how they will be put first in our plans," she said.

"In Rakhine state, this means supporting the implementation of the recommendations of the advisory commission led by the late Kofi Annan," Fore added.

Calling for creating a safe environment for return of Rohingya from Bangladesh, Fore said that implementing the recommendations "will also go a long way toward creating the right conditions" for the return of the refugees from Bangladesh.

"We know, from the UNICEF teams working there, that the children in these camps are living a precarious and almost hopeless existence," she said.

"We urge that the necessary steps are taken to enable their safe, voluntary and dignified return back to their homes, where their rights are respected and they can once again live peaceably with their neighbors."

Persecuted community

The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.

According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.

Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar's state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."

Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar's army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.

The UN has also documented mass gang rapes, killings-including of infants and young children-brutal beatings and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces.

In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.

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