Witnesses at the Permanent Peoples Tribunal in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday said a slow genocide is going on in Myanmar.
Human rights activist Maung Zarni, a Buddhist, in his statement, said the military government led by the then general Ziaur Rahman in 1978 had threatened the Myanmar government of supplying arms unless it took back its nationals from Bangladesh through bilateral talks.
Maung said in a space of four days of threat, the then president of Myanmar, Ne Win, instantly agreed to take back his nationals. Considering the threat as dishonour, he added, Ne Win made the Rohingyas stateless by formulating the Citizen Act in 1982.
Maung Zarni said a liberal democracy existed in Myanmar between 1948 and 1962. But, he pointed out, the rights of the Rohingya people were denied immediately after Ne Win had seized power through a coup in 1962.
Since then, Rohingyas are being made victims of, what he called as, "slow genocide".
He rejected the Myanmar government's campaign that its army launched the operation following the attacks by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) on 25 August.
Zarni said the Rohingya Muslims are being persecuted due to their ethnicity.
Maung Zarni himself introduced the idea of slow genocide in the international law.
Nobel laureate Amartya Sen agreed with the view that the latest persecution of Rohingyas in Rakhine state was slow genocide.
Zarni is the founder of Free Burma Coalition. The Myanmar government suspects Zarni to be a supporter of the Rohingyas.
Terming Rohingyas as one of the ethnic groups of Myanmar, Maung said noted Scottish geographer Francis Buchanan mentioned Rohingyas of Arakan as natives in 1778. So in all respects, he insisted, Rohingyas are the citizens of Arakan.
Maung said the citizen act of 1982 is a tool to launch genocide against Rohingyas.
The seven-member panel of judges led by Argentine lawyer Daniel Feierstein asked if ARSA did really exist on Myanmar soil.
Witnesses answered in the affirmative but pointed out that their number was less than 50.
Two witnesses claimed that those who indulged in rape and torture alongside Myanmar security forces, spoke Bangla.
The two witnesses are executive editor of Rohingya news agency Kaladan Press Network, Tin Soe and writer of Witness to Horror, Razia Sultana.
Razia Sultana interviewed 21 Rohingya women of nine villages who were victims of military operations between October and December 2016.
Nineteen out of 21 women had lost their husbands while 16 children of 11 women were killed.
"Some 100 women including me were gathered in a field and they separated 10 beautiful ones including girls of 10 to 12 years of age," Razia Sultana quoted a woman of Kya Khat Chang village in Myanmar as saying.
The hearing on the atrocities committed against other Muslims, who are not Rohingays, is scheduled to be held today (Wednesday).
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.