The UN Security Council will hold an urgent meeting on Myanmar’s Rohingya crisis, following warnings by the organisation’s human rights chief that “ethnic cleansing” is taking place.
Britain and Sweden requested Wednesday’s meeting against the backdrop of a growing humanitarian crisis.
Around 370,000 of Myanmar’s minority Rohingya population have fled the country’s western state of Rakhine into neighbouring Bangladesh in recent weeks, according to the UN, since the violence began on August 25, after Rohingya fighters attacked police posts, prompting a military crackdown.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, accused Myanmar authorities of acting in a “clearly disproportionate” manner, “without regards for basic principles of international law”, on Monday.
“I call on the government to end its current cruel military operation, with accountability for all violations that have occurred, and to reverse the pattern of severe and widespread discrimination against the Rohingya population,” he said.
Bangladesh has stepped up efforts to resolve the crisis, with Sheikh Hasina, the country’s prime minister, calling on Myanmar to “take steps to take their nationals back” on Tuesday.
“Myanmar has created the problem, and they will have to solve it … We want peaceful relations with our neighbours,” she said during a visit to a refugee camp in southwestern Ukhiya province, near the border with Myanmar.
The Bangladeshi parliament approved a motion on Monday urging the international community to increase pressure on Myanmar to resolve the crisis.
Officials in Buddhist-majority Myanmar claim its security forces are fighting Rohingya combatants.
“The government of Myanmar fully shares the concern of the international community regarding the displacement and suffering of all communities affected by the latest escalation of violence ignited by the acts of terrorism,” said a foreign ministry spokesperson on Tuesday.
A number of nongovernmental organisations have expressed concern at the escalating humanitarian cost of the crisis, with Save the Children claiming the situation is becoming increasingly desperate.
“The humanitarian situation is distressing, and the needs are enormous. The international community needs to recognise this, step up and urgently meet the needs of incredibly vulnerable people, especially children,” said George Graham, the charity’s director of humanitarian policy, on Tuesday.
“Thousands of Rohingya families including children, are sleeping out in the open or by a roadside because they don’t have anywhere else to go. Some don’t have enough food or clean drinking water, and this state of uncertainty increases the risk of children being exploited, abused or even trafficked.”
Bangladeshi officials are due to begin registering the refugees on Tuesday.