UN warns of 'ethnic cleansing' of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims
The situation in Myanmar is a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing", the United Nations rights chief said on Monday, as Washington condemned a surge in violence that has sent more than 300,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing for Bangladesh.
Hours after the UN warning, the Security Council announced it would meet on Wednesday to discuss the violence, prompting an ongoing exodus of Rohingya into neighbouring Bangladesh.
Refugees fleeing the unrest have brought stories of entire villages burned to the ground by Buddhist mobs and Myanmar troops.
Myanmar's de facto civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, a Nobel peace prize laureate, has faced strong international criticism over an army crackdown on the Muslim minority, which began when Rohingya militants ambushed security forces in Rakhine State on August 25.
On Monday the UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, accused Myanmar of waging a "systematic attack" on Rohingya civilians and warned that "ethnic cleansing" seemed to be under way.
"Because Myanmar has refused access to human rights investigators the current situation cannot yet be fully assessed, but the situation seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing," he told the UN Human Rights Council.
The stateless Rohingya have faced decades of persecution in Myanmar, where they are regarded as illegal immigrants.
The White House broke its silence on the crisis on Monday, saying it was "deeply troubled" by attacks by both sides, including the militant ambushes in Rakhine.
We "reiterate our condemnation of those attacks and ensuing violence", Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, without directly accusing the Myanmar military of carrying out a crackdown.
The UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar has said the latest violence may have left more than 1,000 dead, most of them Rohingya.
The UN refugee agency says at least 313,000 Rohingya have now arrived in Bangladesh from Rakhine State since August 25, about a third of the total population of 1.1 million.
The actual figure could be even higher: The UN said many new arrivals are still on the move and are therefore left out of the calculations.
Most have walked for days, and the United Nations says many are sick, exhausted and in desperate need of shelter, food and water.