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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.

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.

Rohingya Krise in Bangladesch (DW/M.M. Rahman)

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."

Palästina Guterres im Gaza-Streifen (Reuters/M. Salem)

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.

ap/sms (Reuters, AFP)

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