The Rohingya people in Myanmar are trapped in a vicious system of state-sponsored, institutionalised discrimination that amounts to apartheid, according to Amnesty International.

It makes the claim in a new report published today following a two-year investigation.

Amnesty says the Myanmar authorities are keeping Rohingya women, men and children segregated in a dehumanising system that confines them to what amounts to a ghetto-like existence.

The report, entitled 'Caged without a roof', puts into context a recent wave of violence.

A counter-insurgency operation was launched in Myanmar's Rakhine State, after Rohingya militants attacked an army base and 30 police posts, driving more than 600,000 Rohingya out of the Buddhist-majority country since late August.


Myanmar's military has said that all fighting against the Rohingya militants died out on 5 September.

The group behind those attacks, Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), had declared a one-month ceasefire on 10 September, which was rejected by the Myanmar government.

But there have been no serious clashes since.

The investigation reveals how Myanmar authorities severely restrict virtually all aspects of Rohingyas' lives in Rakhine State where they struggle to access healthcare, education or in some areas even to leave their villages.

Amnesty says the current situation meets every requirement of the legal definition of the crime against humanity of apartheid.

The United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein has previously described the treatment of the Muslim Rohingya community in Myanmar as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi said she hopes talks with Bangladesh this week will result in a memorandum of understanding on the "safe and voluntary return" of Rohingya Muslims.

We can't say whether it has happened or not. As a responsibility of the government, we have to make sure that it won't happen," Ms Suu Kyi told reporters in response to a question about human rights violations at the end of a meeting of senior officials at an Asia-Europe Meeting, or ASEM, in Myanmar's capital Naypyitaw.

Her less than two-year old civilian government has faced heavy international criticism for its response to the crisis,though it has no control over the generals it has to share power with under Myanmar's transition to power after decades of military rule.

The Rohingya are largely stateless and many people in Myanmar view them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Ms Suu Kyi said Myanmar would follow the framework of anagreement reached in the 1990s to cover the earlier repatriation of Rohingya, who had fled to Bangladesh to escape previous bouts of ethnic violence.

That agreement did not address the citizenship status of Rohingya, and Bangladesh has been pressing for a repatriation process that provided Rohingya with more safeguards this time.

Myanmar intends to resettle most refugees who return in new "model villages", rather than on the land they previously occupied, an approach the United Nations has criticised in the past as effectively creating permanent camps.