Rohingya crisis: UN Security Council condemns excessive violence in Myanmar

The 15-member UN Security Council has called on Myanmar to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation. About 370,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh in the past few weeks to seek protection.

The UN Security Council on Wednesday expressed concern about "excessive violence" used by the security forces in Rakhine state, the home to the majority of Rohingya Muslims.

Politics | 13.09.2017

In a statement after a closed-door meeting, the 15-member Council "called for immediate steps to end the violence in Rakhine, de-escalate the situation, re-establish law and order, ensure the protection of civilians."

British UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said the press statement was the first statement the Security Council has made in nine years on the situation.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya people have been fleeing to Bangladesh

Rycroft said several members called for an open meeting on "the catastrophe that is befalling Rakhine state and the Rohingya there."

The unanimous statement comes at a time Myanmar government is facing international criticism for its military's disproportionate response to Rohingya insurgent attacks on border guard posts last month.

'Catastrophic humanitarian situation'

Earlier on Wednesday, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the Myanmar government to suspend military action against Rohingya people.

The UN chief said the crisis was destabilizing the region. Guterres said the humanitarian situation was "catastrophic" and called on all countries to supply badly needed aid. 

"I call on the Myanmar authorities to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law and recognize the right of return of all those who had to leave the country," Guterres said at a news conference.

Asked if the situation could be described as ethnic cleansing, Guterres replied: "Well, I would answer your question with another question: When one-third of the Rohingya population had to flee the country, could you find a better word to describe it?"

Read more: Myanmar's Rohingya - a history of forced exoduses

On Monday, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein described the military crackdown on Rohingya as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing."

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the humanitarian crisis was destabilizing the region

Brutal crackdown

About 370,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar to seek protection after an insurgent attack on security forces on August 25 in Rakhine sparked off a brutal military counteroffensive.

Hundreds of people, the majority of them Rohingya, have been killed in the violence that has seen many homes destroyed and several villages burned down. 

Guterres also said he has spoken to Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi several times. Suu Kyi canceled a trip to the upcoming UN General Assembly to deal with the crisis and said she would make a public address about it next week.

Rohingya people have faced years of persecution in Myanmar. They have been denied citizenship rights and are viewed by the local authorities as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Myanmar's Buddhist majority is often accused of subjecting them to discrimination and violence.

Read more: Rohingya people in Myanmar: what you need to know

Guterres urged the Myanmar government to either grant the Rohingya nationality or legal status that would allow them to live a normal life.

The flight of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh

Seeking refuge

A series of coordinated attacks by Rohingya insurgents on Myanmar security forces in the north of Myanmar's Rakhine State triggered a crackdown by Myanmar forces that has sent a stream of Rohingya villagers fleeing to Bangladesh. About 400 people have been killed in the clashes in Buddist-majority Myanmar.

The flight of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh

Mass evacuation

A Rohingya man passes a child though a barbed wire border fence on the border with Bangladesh. Myanmar accused the Rohingya insurgents of torching seven villages, one outpost, and two parts of Maungdaw town.

The flight of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh

Buddhist refugees on their way south

The crackdown by Myanmar forces also sparked a mass evacuation of thousands of Buddhist residents of the area. Tension has long been high between the Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists, leading to bloody rioting in 2012. Rakhine Buddhists, feeling unsafe after the upsurge in fighting, are moving south to the state's capital, Sittwe, where Buddhists are a majority and have greater security.

The flight of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh

No entry

Bangladeshi border guards block people from crossing. Thousands of Rohingyas have sought to flee the fighting to Bangladesh, with nearly 30,000 crossing over. Bangladesh, which is already host to more than 400,000 Rohingya said it will not accept any more refugees, despite an appeal by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for Dhaka to allow Rohingya to seek safety.

The flight of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh

Humanitarian crisis

An aid worker with an international agency in Bangladesh reports: "What we're seeing is that many Rohingya people are sick. This is because they got stuck in the border before they could enter. It's mostly women and children." The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar and classified as illegal immigrants, despite claiming roots there that go back centuries.

The flight of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh

Not welcome in Bangladesh

A group of Rohingya refugees takes shelter at the Kutuupalang makeshift refugee camp in Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh. Bangladesh's unwillingness to host more refugees became apparent in the government's plan to relocate Rohingyas to a remote island that is mostly flooded during the monsoon season.

The flight of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar to Bangladesh

Stranded in no man's land

Rohingya children make their way through water as they try to come to the Bangladesh side from no man's land. Tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees are believed to be stuck at the border to Bangladesh.

ap/sms (Reuters, AFP)