UN plea for urgent action from Myanmar government over Rohingya crisis

14 Sep 2017By Andrea Nierhoff

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The United Nations has implored Myanmar authorities to de-escalate tensions in northern Rakhine state, with hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims fleeing a deadly conflict.

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Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi is facing sustained criticism over the crisis.

 

The announcement that she won't be attending an upcoming UN meeting has sparked further disapproval.

 

With the number of Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar since the latest violent outbreak nearing the 400,000 mark, the United Nations has issued a fresh call for calm.

 

Describing the conflict as "catastrophic" and talking of "disturbing reports" of violence by security forces against civilians, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Myanmar's government to uphold the rule of law.

 

He's agreed with the assessment of the situation by UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein.

 

Reporter: "Do you believe this is ethnic cleansing?"

Guterres: "Well I would answer your question with another question. When one-third of the Rohingya population had to flee the country, can you find a better word to describe it?"

 

A statement from the 15-member UN Security Council expresses "concern about reports of excessive violence", calling for an end to the bloodshed and the protection of civilians.

 

Britain's U-N Ambassador says it's the first time in nine years the Council had agreed on a statement on Myanmar.

 

Myanmar's leader, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, has faced a backlash over her handling of the conflict.

 

News that an upcoming trip to attend the UN General Assembly has been cancelled has only deepened disapproval.

 

Political analyst Khin Zaw Win says it's the wrong move.

 

"It would be expected for you to go. It is like you are trying to avoid the criticism and trying to avoid the issue. Let's say you are trying to hide from all this, you see. And it won't help. Things are bad but by trying to avert it - or let's say, trying to avoid it, I would say is a better word - you only make things worse."

 

Professor David Steinberg from Georgetown University is an acquaintaince of Ms Suu Kyi.

 

He's told the BBC the lack of trust between her and the country's military puts her in a precarious political position.

 

He believes the global criticism is only adding to the pressure.

"I think she has a view of herself as playing this critical function in society, but it's being undercut by the very actions of not doing anything, not saying the right thing, because it's not just the inside world that is concerned about this. She has to deal with a majority of Burmese - a vast majority of Burmese - who are very anti-Muslim and especially anti-Rohingya, and she has to try and play a role as foreign minister dealing with the outside world and these are two contradictory kinds of positions."

 

The country's government says its security forces are targeting Rohingya militants responsible for a chain of attacks, and not civilians.

 

It says militant Muslims are attacking the Rohingya Muslim civilians.

 

Presidential spokesman Zaw Htay says more than 170 villages have been abandoned, and residents had fled from another 34.

 

He also says not all those who left would be allowed to return.

 

Many in Myanmar insist the Rohingya migrated illegally from Bangladesh, and refer to them as "Bengalis".

 

This is despite some Rohingyas being able to trace their lineage inside Myanmar for generations.

 

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