According to Arab News, Prince Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has said he would not be surprised if a court one day ruled that acts of genocide had been committed against the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar.

He also told the BBC in an interview that attacks on the Rohingya had been "well thought out and planned" and he had asked Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi to do more to stop the military action.

In the past, Zeid called the campaign "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing" and asked rhetorically if anyone could rule out "elements of genocide", but his latest remarks put the case plainly, toughening his stance.

"The elements suggest you cannot rule out the possibility that acts of genocide have been committed," he said, according to excerpts of his interview provided in advance by the BBC.

Pictured: Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad Zeid al-Hussein, current United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Since the late 1970s, discriminatory policies put in place by Myanmar’s government have forced hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya to flee their homes in the predominantly Buddhist country.

Most have crossed by land into Bangladesh, while others have taken to the sea to reach Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand. The Rohingya people are a Muslim minority in predominantly-Buddhist Myanmar, also known as Burma. They are concentrated in the western coastal Rakhine state, which is adjacent to Bangladesh.

Who are the Rohingya?

According to the United Nations, the Rohingya people have been estimated at about 1.1 million and are one of the most persecuted groups in the world as neither Bangladesh nor Myanmar recognizes them as citizens.

Within Myanmar, even the term Rohingya is impermissible to use and officials refer to the group as "Bengalis" as they continue to insist that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even though most of them have lived in the country for generations. 

The Rohingya are effectively the largest stateless population in the world.

WATCH: The Rohingya Crisis - Explained in 90 seconds

They also have limited access to education or adequate health care and are not allowed to move around freely. They have been attacked by the military and chased from their homes and land by extremist Buddhist mobs in a country that regards them as illegal settlers.

Longstanding tension between the Rohingya Muslims and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists erupted in violent rioting in 2012 that killed nearly 200 people and displaced 140,000 - most of them into crowded camps just outside Sittwe, the capital of the state of Rakhine, where they live under poor, apartheid-like conditions, with little or no opportunities for work.

The latest violence in Myanmar's northwestern Rakhine state began in August 2017, when a Rohingya insurgent group wielding sticks, knives and homemade bombs carried out coordinated attacks on more than 25 Myanmar police stations and an army base. 

An Islamist insurgent group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), took responsibility for the attacks, saying they were in defense of Rohingya communities. Human rights groups and advocates for the Rohingya say the army retaliated by burning down villages and shooting innocent civilians. 

The government blames Rohingya insurgents for the violence and says that its army is conducting "clearance operations" against extremist terrorists and that security forces have been told to protect civilians, but Rohingya arriving in Bangladesh say a campaign is underway to permanently force them out...

Timeline of recent events:

  • November 2010 - Opposition leader and Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi is released from house arrest.
  • June 2012 - Religious violence leaves more than 200 dead and close to 150,000 homeless in the state of Rakhine - predominantly Rohingya. 
  • Between 2012 and 2015 - More than 112,000 Rohingya flee, largely by boat to Malaysia.
  • November 2015 - In the first democratic elections since the end of military rule, Rohingya people aren't allowed to participate as candidates, nor as voters. Suu Kyi's party wins and she becomes the de-facto leader in a power-sharing agreement with the military.
  • October 2016 - More than 300 Rohingya men attack border posts in the Rakhine state. The attacks spark an intense crackdown by the Myanmar military and trigger an exodus of 87,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh. A Rohingya insurgent group, known as Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), claims responsibility.
  • August 2017 - Myanmar's state media reports that numerous security officers were killed by ARSA insurgents during a series of coordinated attacks targeting at least 25 police outposts and an army base in Rakhine state. Military responds with what they describe as "clearance operations", burning down villages and triggering a mass exodus of Rohingya people to Bangladesh.
  • September 2017 - In a televised speech, Suu Kyi condemned any human rights violations but was widely criticized for failing to acknowledge the alleged atrocities by the military. Myanmar's military has repeatedly denied conducting atrocities, saying it is targeting terrorists.
  • December 2017 - More than 660,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh after fleeing violence in Myanmar since August 2017.