A refugee bathes his child at the Kutupalong Camp in Teknaaf, Bangladesh. Photo: New York TimesWho are the Rohingya, and why are they being persecuted?Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi criticised for silence on Rohingya

Bangkok: ​Nazi ideology and Islam-phobia are being used to stoke hatred of more than a million Rohingyas in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state, according to the findings of an 18-month investigation.

The country’s military-backed government, state-level officials and Buddhist monks are orchestrating the mass annihilation of the Rohingya, say researchers at Queen Mary University of London.

Drawing on leaked government documents, researchers say they have uncovered evidence that the persecution of the stateless Rohingya – including corralling them into ghettos, sporadic massacres and restrictions on movements – amounts to a longer term strategy by Myanmar’s government to isolate, weaken and eliminate the group.

In a report titled Countdown to Annihilation: Genocide in Myanmar researchers from the university-based International State Crime Initiative concluded that “dehumanisation and stigmatisation” techniques being used against Rohingyas warrant comparison with Germany in the 1930s and Rwanda in the early 1990s.

Researchers said they found Nazi and SS paraphernalia such as t-shirts and helmets in official documents of the Arakan National Party, a Rahkine party.

Copies of Adolf Hitler’s manifesto Mein Kampf are being sold on  Rakhine’s streets, they said.

The report quotes an editorial in an Arakan National Party magazine declaring in 2012 that “in order for a country’s survival …crimes against humanity or inhuman acts may be justifiably committed.”

“We will go down in history as cowards if we pass on these [Rohingya] issues to the next generation without getting it over and done with,” the editorial said.

Professor Penny Green, director of the initiative, said weakened and traumatised Rohingyas in camps and ghettos “endure the barest of lives and denial of basic human rights, with the ever-present fear of attack.”

Myanmar’s government officially refers to Rohingya as “Bengalis” from Bangladesh and claims they are mostly illegal immigrants in the country where 90 per cent of its 53 million people are Buddhists.

The report’s release comes ahead of landmark elections in Myanmar on November 8 that are seen as a test of progress in the country’s transition from half a century of often-brutal military rule to democracy.

Despite being described as Myanmar’s first free poll in 25 years, Muslims have been prevented from contesting and been the target of racial and religious abuse during campaigning by ultra-nationalist Buddhist groups like Ma Ba Tha, an acronym for the Association for the Protection of Race and Religion.

Amnesty International and other human rights groups have warned of an imminent humanitarian disaster as Rohingya families take to unsafe people-smuggler boats to escape Myanmar now that the monsoon season has ended in the Bay of Bengal.

While many reports have documented the decades-long persecution of Rohingya, the Queen Mary University report controversially finds they face the final stages of genocide, which it said was not always visible in Rakhine.

“It can be stopped but not without confronting the fact that it is, indeed, genocide,” Professor Green said.

The finding is backed by Tomas Ojea Quintana, the UN’s special rapporteur of human rights in Myanmar between 2008 and 2014.

“At this point, the situation of the Rohingya cannot be understood without considering a possible genocide,” he said in comments released with the report.

“For decades, the Rohingya people in Myanmar have been victims of widespread government violations that, when considered hollistically, and analysed systematically, reveal a bleak conclusion: the Rohingya people are being gradually decimated,” Mr Quintana said.

“This dramatic conclusion has not been drawn powerfully or often enough,” he said.

The report said Rohingyas “have been subjected to a virulent and official nationwide policy and propaganda campaign which has incrementally removed them from the State’s sphere of responsibility.”

“The State’s persistent and intensified ‘othering’ of the Rohingya as outsiders, illegal Bengali immigrants and potential terrorists has given a green light to Rakhine nationalist and [Islamophobic] monks to orchestrate invidious campaigns of race and religious hatred reminiscent of these witnessed in Germany in the 1930s and Rwanda in the early 1990s,” it said.

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