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.
Myanmar denies committing atrocities against the Rohingya.
Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein also urged the Human Rights Council to consider asking the U.N. General Assembly to authorize another U.N. investigation into abuses and violence against the Rohingya since August that has driven 626,000 into neighboring Bangladesh.
Myanmar's ambassador on the council denied the claims and said that his government was working with Bangladesh to help relocate those who had lost their homes.
The rights chief then asked: "Considering Rohingyas' self-identify as a distinct ethnic group with their own language and culture - and [that they] are also deemed by the perpetrators themselves as belonging to a different ethnic, national, racial or religious group - given all of this, can anyone rule out that elements of genocide may be present?"
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He added that UN agencies would be involved but stopped short of guaranteeing the immediate, unimpeded access to Myanmar for UN investigators that the UN has demanded.
However, while ethnic cleansing is not a designated offence under global law, genocide is the most serious of atrocity crimes.
Zeid, who has described the campaign in the past as a "textbook case of ethnic cleansing", was addressing a special session of the UN Human Rights Council called by Bangladesh.
"But the concerns are extremely serious, and clearly call for access to be immediately granted for further verification".
During their visits, Emine and Mevlüt listened to the tale of woes from the displaced Rohingya, who described the horrific details of the recent army crackdown in Northern Rakhine state. Some 100 caricatures depicting the tribulation and suffering of the ethnic Rohingya in Myanmar and the efforts of Malaysia in helping the community are on display for five days at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) here until Saturday.