The United Nations human rights office on Wednesday said that security forces in Myanmar have “brutally driven out” five lakh Rohingya Muslims from the northern Rakhine state, and torched their homes, crops and villages to prevent them from returning, Reuters reported.

The UN human rights office interviewed 65 Rohingya Muslims who have arrived in Bangladesh over the past month, and concluded that “clearance operations” by the Myanmar forces had begun before the insurgent attacks on police posts on August 25. The operations included killings, torture and rape of children, the UN human rights office said.

“Almost all testimonies indicated that people were shot at close range and in the back while they tried to flee in panic,” the UN human rights office’s report said. “Witness accounts attest to Rohingya victims, including children and elderly people, burned to death inside their houses.”

The office said that Myanmar security forces were joined by “mobs” of armed Rakhine Buddhists, who destroyed houses, fields, food stocks, crops, and livestock.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein described the Myanmar military’s action as “a cynical ploy to forcibly transfer large numbers of people without possibility of return”.

The UN report added that the Myanmar security forces planted landmines along the Bangladesh border in an attempt to prevent Rohingya from returning. “There are indications that violence is still ongoing,” it said.