The prime minister of Bangladesh has proposed setting up UN-supervised safe zones in Myanmar to protect Rohingya Muslims fleeing a military crackdown. The UN says 420,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh to date.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (above) set out a five-point plan on Thursday calling for the protection of the Rohingyas in "safe zones that could be created inside Myanmar under UN supervision."
"These people must be able to return to their homeland in safety, security and dignity," Hasina told the UN General Assembly.
The creation of "safe areas" would require the approval of the Security Council, where China - a strong supporter of Myanmar's former junta - has veto power. Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been supine to date in the face of accusations she is siding with the military.
Myanmar must also stop the violence and "the practice of ethnic cleansing," agree to allow a UN fact-finding mission, ensure the return of refugees and abide by a report that recommends citizenship for the Rohingya, said Hasina.
Security forces backed by Buddhist mobs have been accused of killings, rapes and burning down Rohingya villages in western Myanmar.
There has been mounting international outrage over the plight of the Rohingya, prompting the UN Security Council this month to call for an end to the violence.
The UN has said that some 420,000 Rohingya have fled for safety to Bangladesh after Myanmar launched a military campaign in northern Rakhine state. The army blamed attacks by Rohingya militants on police posts on August 25.
The recent exodus of Rohingya has brought the number of refugees from Rakhine living in Bangladesh to over 800,000, said the prime minister.
Hasina accused Myanmar authorities of laying landmines on the border to prevent the Rohingyas from returning.
The UN has described the military operation as "ethnic cleansing," while French President Emmanuel Macron said it was "genocide."
The 1.1-million strong Rohingya people have suffered many years of discrimination in Myanmar, where they are denied citizenship.
Patrick Murphy, the US deputy assistant secretary of state to Southeast Asia, said on Thursday that there are voices saying if Myanmar doesn't do it, "an international mechanism to examine those kinds of abuses" should be considered.
jbh/rc (AFP, AP)