But it was only after the Burmese armed forces launched an indiscriminate crackdown against the community last month that the world, including the United Nations, began to realize how grave the situation has become.
Finally, a U.N. official has acknowledged that Myanmar is seeking the “ethnic cleansing” of the Muslim Rohingya minority from its territory.
BBC reports John McKissick, a representative of the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, said Burmese troops have been “killing men, shooting them, slaughtering children, raping women, burning and looting houses, forcing these people to cross the river” into neighboring Bangladesh.
The reports come weeks after Myanmar’s military allegedly began carrying out unspeakable atrocities against the minority under the pretense of a brutal operation against the Rohingya Muslim community following a series of separate attacks targeting border guard outposts in Rakhine (aka Arakan), near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border.
However, while Myanmar is forcing the Rohingya people into Bangladesh, the embattled minority is also, apparently, not welcome in Bangladesh.
Since 1970s, tens of thousands Rohingya refugees have crossed the border and have been living in one of several refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar district, Bangladesh. But the country is no longer willing to take in more asylum-seekers.
“Now it’s very difficult for the Bangladeshi government to say the border is open because this would further encourage the government of Myanmar to continue the atrocities and push them out until they have achieved their ultimate goal of ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority in Myanmar,” McKissick told the BBC.
Human Rights Watch reported over 1,000 homes were torched in Rohingya villages while the U.N.’s refugee agency in Bangladesh accused Myanmar troops of killing scores of Rohingya Muslims and raping Rohingya women.
"They (Myanmar's military) took my two boys, aged 9 and 12, when they entered my village. I don't know what happened to them," Deen Mohammad, a Rohingya farmer, now a refugee in Bangladesh, told AFP. "They took women in rooms and then locked them from inside. Up to 50 women and girls of our village were tortured and raped."
Meanwhile, Myanmar’s army has denied all allegations and the country’s de-facto leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been silent over the reported military campaign.