The comments are among the first by United Nations officials about a possible genocide perpetrated against the Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, more than 600,000 of whom have fled into neighboring Bangladesh since a bloody security crackdown began in August.
The United Nations human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, said in Geneva on Tuesday that Burmese security forces may be guilty of genocide, adding global pressure on Myanmar to be investigated for crimes against humanity.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that none of the 626,000 Rohingya who have fled violence to Bangladesh since August should be repatriated to Myanmar unless there was robust monitoring on the ground.
"Can anyone -can anyone- rule out that elements of genocide may be present?" Those who fled the violence did so voluntarily, some officials have said.
Up until this point, United Nations officials have described the crisis as "ethnic cleansing" but the term genocide would increase pressure on officials in Myanmar.
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However, while ethnic cleansing is not a designated offence under global law, genocide is the most serious of atrocity crimes.
He urged the council to request that the UN General Assembly set up a mechanism "to assist individual criminal investigations of those responsible".
But it is considered highly unlikely that China, a major investor and trading partner for Myanmar, would agree.
Mainly Buddhist Myanmar denies the Muslim Rohingya are its citizens and considers them foreigners.
Since Aug. 25, more than 625,000 Rohingya have crossed from Myanmar's western state of Rakhine into Bangladesh, according to the UN. Myanmar's army says it has been targeting Rohingya militants. Earlier, the state Department threatened to impose sanctions against Myanmar for violations of the rights of the Muslim Rohingya. "Deep divisions between communities remain unaddressed and human access is inadequate", she said.