Myanmar's "ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya Muslims is continuing, a senior United Nations human rights official said on Tuesday, more than six months after insurgent attacks sparked a security response that has driven almost 700,000 people into Bangladesh.
Reports of bulldozing of alleged mass graves showed a "deliberate attempt by the authorities to destroy evidence of potential global crimes, including possible crimes against humanity", Zeid Ra'ad Al-Hussein added in a speech to the UN Human Rights Council.
"Bangladesh has shown a level of generosity that is sadly lacking in many parts of the world, including in this region", he said, calling upon Dhaka to allow Rohingya children access to education and some access to livelihood opportunities.
The UN envoy's assessment of a continued "campaign of terror and forced starvation" comes six months after a military crackdown caused a mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims.
Finance Minister A.M.A Muhith said the repatriation deal signed between Myanmar and Bangladesh in November would likely fail despite his government's official stance that the refugees must eventually go back.
Some 700,000 Muslim Rohingya have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar to Bangladesh since late August, when Myanmar security forces began sweeps through Rakhine after attacks by a Rohingya insurgent group.
Myanmar's government has built two reception camps and a transition camp for Rohingya refugees in northern Rakhine, but Gilmour, like most human rights advocates, says it is unsafe now to repatriate the Rohingya.
Refugees who have arrived recently gave Gilmour "credible accounts" of continuing killings, rape, torture and abductions, as well as forced starvation.
"The conversation now must focus on stopping the violence in Rakhine state, ensuring accountability for the perpetrators, and the need for Myanmar to create conditions for return", said Gilmour.
"You can speculate that very few will return to Burma. The first reason is that Burma will only take a few and secondly is that the refugees will never return if they fear persecution", he added, using another name for Myanmar.
Last week, Myanmar's army deployed additional security forces to the border with Bangladesh, with the apparent aim of driving about 6,000 Rohingya refugees staying in a no man's land into Bangladeshi territory.
But the plan has courted controversy from the outset.
Rights groups and the United Nations have warned that conditions for their return are not close to being in place. There are about 40 elephants in the area and they move between Bangladesh and Myanmar in search of food.