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Tusk criticizes Myanmar over plight of Rohingya minority

The EU's Donald Tusk called on the South Asian country to meet its human rights obligations. Meanwhile, the UN fears things will get worse in Myanmar and neighboring Bangladesh before they get better.

European Council President Donald Tusk called on Myanmar to comply with its international rights obligations and allow Rohingya refugees to return home after weeks of violence forced more than 500,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

Tusk also insisted that Myanmar give aid workers access to the embattled state of Rakhine. The Rohingya, a Muslim minority, have been forced to flee the state following a violent crackdown by Myanmar authorities since the end of August.

EU Council President Donald Tusk talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi

European Council President Tusk with Indian PM Modi

Entire villages once inhabited by the Rohingya are being burnt to the ground as security forces continue a campaign of retribution for attacks on police stations.

Tusk's comments came Friday after a meeting with Indian leaders in New Delhi. He applauded India for responding quickly, with aid, to neighboring Bangladesh.

"The EU continues to assume its responsibilities by receiving people in need of protection and by assisting host countries close to the conflict zones," Tusk said after the talks.

Watch video 02:13

Dozens of Rohingya refugees drown off Bangladesh coast

"We addressed the situation in Myanmar and the Rohingya refugee crisis," he continued. "We want to see de-escalation of tension and the full adherence to international human rights obligations as well as full humanitarian access so the aid can reach those in need."

Meanwhile, the United Nations is bracing for more people fleeing Myanmar. 

"This flow of people [out] of Myanmar hasn't stopped yet," said Mark Lowcock, UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, during a press conference in Geneva. "Obviously there's into the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya still in Myanmar, and we want to be ready in case there is a further exodus."

Security forces run amok

The UN has slammed the Myanmar military offensive as bearing the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing, but Myanmar says its forces are battling "terrorists" who have killed civilians and burnt villages.

Myanmar Luftaufnahme eines verbrannten Rohingya Dorfes in der Nähe von Maungdaw
(Reuters/S. Z. Tun)

A Rohingya village burned to the ground in Myanmar

Aid organizations say more than half of the villages in the north of Rakhine state have been torched in a campaign by the security forces and Buddhist vigilantes to drive out Muslims.

Lowcock on Friday renewed his call for access to the population in northern Rakhine, and called the situation there "unacceptable."

Watch video 12:00

Rohingya crisis reaches Bangladesh

Buddhist-majority Myanmar has sharply restricted international access to the area, although some agencies have managed to open offices in a handful of towns. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is helping the local Red Cross to deliver aid to civilians, but says much more is needed.

Lowcock added that a senior UN official was expected to visit Myanmar in the coming days.

The International Organization for Migration estimates that 2,000 Rohingya are arriving in Bangladesh every day, according to Joel Millman, an IOM spokesman.

bik/msh (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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