Yanghee Lee told reporters in Seoul, where she is based, that she couldn't make a definitive declaration about genocide until a credible international tribunal or court had weighed the evidence, but "we are seeing signs and it is building up to that," AP reported
Her briefing described her recent visit to refugee camps in Bangladesh and other areas in the region to discuss the Rohingya, a persecuted Muslim minority in Myanmar. Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have fled their villages into Bangladesh since the Myanmar military's crackdown in August.
Responding to a question about an Associated Press report Thursday that details a massacre and at least five mass graves in the Myanmar village of Gu Dar Pyin, Lee said that while she didn't have specific details on the village, "you can see it's a pattern" that has emerged with the Rohingya.
She said such reports must be investigated, "and this is why we've called for a fact finding mission ... and access for international media to" the areas in northern Rakhine state where the Rohingya live.
Lee said that Myanmar's actions were "amounting to crimes against humanity."
"These are part of the hallmarks of a genocide," she said.
"I think Myanmar needs to get rid of this baggage of 'did you or did you not,' and if proven that they did, then there has to be responsibility and accountability. No stones must be left unturned because the people, the victims, the families of the victims definitely deserve an answer," she said.
The AP's report confirmed mass graves in the Rakhine state village of Gu Dar Pyin by relying on time-stamped cellphone video and interviews with more than two dozen survivors who say Myanmar troops and Buddhist villagers killed scores of ethnic Rohingya Muslims in August.
Mass grave report ‘extremely troubling’
A United Nations spokesman also said the AP’s report on mass graves in Myanmar is "extremely troubling," and he urged Myanmar to allow access to the state where the killings occurred.
Stephane Dujarric was asked for reaction from U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres on the AP's report.
Dujarric said the UN is "very concerned" about the possible mass graves. He says the report "underscores the need for the UN to have access" to Myanmar's Rakhine state.
The Myanmar government regularly claims massacres like Gu Dar Pyin never happened, and has acknowledged only one mass grave containing 10 "terrorists" in the village of Inn Din.
But the AP's reporting shows a military slaughter of civilians, and suggests the presence of many more graves with many more people.
It is the newest piece of evidence for what looks increasingly like a genocide in Myanmar's western Rakhine state against the Rohingya, a long-persecuted ethnic Muslim minority in the predominantly Buddhist country.