A militant attack in Myanmar and then came the crackdown sweeping through Rohingya Muslim villages. Leaving them in ashes. Reports of killings, torture and rape. Sending an estimated 655,000 Rohingya fleeing into Bangladesh since August. The UN's top human rights official says that one day this could be ruled genocide.
Myanmar denies committing atrocities against the Rohingya and the military says the crackdown was a legitimate counter insurgency operation. I'm Simon Lewis for Reuters. The world had high hopes for Myanmar after democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi came to power last year. She won the Nobel Peace Prize for her stand against the military generals who ruled Myanmar with an iron fist, suppressing any and all dissent.
Now she faces fierce international criticism herself for failing to protect a vulnerable minority. She's condemned human rights abuses in Rakhine state but has not addressed accusations of ethnic cleansing. Suu Kyi shares power with the military. Army officers still control key ministries and they're free from civilian oversight. And it was the military that led the response to a new Rohingya insurgency in the Western state of Rakhine.
Aid agencies have been blocked and independent journalists and observers can't get in. The refugees tell of a bloody purge that drove the Rohingya out. Advocacy groups say freedom of speech has been eroded since Suu Kyi took office. Many journalists have been arrested and there are restrictions on reporting.
Two Reuters reporters have been arrested and accused of violating the Officials Secrets Act. Hundreds of thousands of refugees now live under plastic tarps. They sleep on the floor and rely on handouts. Malnutrition and disease are rife in this new tent city. Myanmar says they can return home, and many say they want to return, but only if they're granted their rights and can be sure they are safe.
Myanmar asserts they're not citizens, Suu Kyi says she wants to reconstruct Rakhine and have new development there. But observers say that any efforts could be easily derailed by any insurgent attacks in the future, or by more of what the United States and others have called ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya.