Myanmar is facing growing international pressure to end violence that has sent about 370,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh, Reuters reports.
The United States on Tuesday called for protection of civilians, while Bangladesh urged safe zones to enable the refugees to go home.
“We call on Burmese security authorities to respect the rule of law, stop the violence, and end the displacement of civilians from all communities,” the White House said in a statement.
Myanmar says its security forces are fighting Rohingya militants behind a surge of violence in Rakhine state that began on Aug. 25, and they are doing all they can to avoid harming civilians.
The government says about 400 people have been killed in the fighting, the latest in the western state.
Authorities, while expressing concern over the suffering, said its forces were carrying out their legitimate duty to restore order in response to acts of extremism.
“The government of Myanmar fully shares the concern of the international community regarding the displacement and suffering of all communities affected by the latest escalation of violence ignited by the acts of terrorism,” Myanmar’s foreign ministry was quoted as saying in a statement.
Attacks by a Rohingya insurgent group on police posts and an army base in the north of Rakhine on Aug. 25 provoked a military counter-offensive that refugees say is aimed at pushing Rohingya out of the country.
Critics have accused Buddhist-majority Myanmar as treating Rohingya as illegal migrants from Bangladesh and denying them citizenship, even though many Rohingya families have lived in the country for generations.
Reports from refugees and rights groups paint a picture of widespread attacks on Rohingya villages in the north of Rakhine by the security forces and ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, who have put numerous Muslim villages to the torch.
But Myanmar authorities have denied that the security forces, or Buddhist civilians, have been setting the fires, instead blaming the insurgents.
The top UN human rights official denounced Myanmar on Monday for conducting a “cruel military operation” against Rohingya, branding it “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
The UN Security Council is to meet on Wednesday behind closed doors for the second time during the crisis since Aug. 25.
British UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said he hopes there would be a public statement agreed by the council on the crisis.
Sherine Tadros, head Amnesty International in New York, said if the council doesn’t act the situation could get worse in Myanmar.
“The danger is without some sort of public proclamation by Security Council members … the message that you’re sending to the Myanmar government is deadly,” Tadros told reporters.
– Contact us at [email protected]