COX'S BAZAR (Bangladesh) • The United Nations Security Council will hold an urgent meeting today to discuss violence churning through western Myanmar, after the UN's rights chief warned that "ethnic cleansing" appeared to have driven out over 300,000 Rohingya Muslims.
Rakhine state was plunged into crisis after Rohingya militants attacked police posts in late August, prompting a military backlash that has sent nearly a third of the Muslim-minority population fleeing to Bangladesh.
Rohingya refugees have told stories of being forced to flee from soldiers and Buddhist mobs who burned their villages to the ground and killed civilians indiscriminately, while the government blames militants for the arson.
International pressure tightened on Myanmar's government on Monday, as UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said the violence seemed to be a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".
The crisis has heaped global opprobrium on Myanmar's civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi for her failure to speak up for the Rohingya. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which Ms Suu Kyi heads, on Monday said Myanmar "welcomes the statements issued by the United Nations and a number of countries firmly condemning the terrorist attacks", without referencing the UN's charge of "ethnic cleansing".
The statement also defended the military's operations as part of its "legitimate duty to restore stability", saying troops were under orders "to take full measures to avoid collateral damage".
Yesterday, the White House added to international pressure on Myanmar by calling for the protection of civilians, urging the "security authorities to respect the rule of law, stop the violence, and end the displacement of civilians from all communities".
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS