Myanmar leaders under mounting pressure over ethnic violence

  • 06/09/2017
Myanmar, Violence
Aung San Suu Kyi Photo credit: Getty

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi is coming under further pressure to halt violence against Rohingya Muslims that has sent nearly 125,000 of them fleeing over the border to Bangladesh in just over 10 days.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is warning of the risk of ethnic cleansing and regional destabilisation and has urged the UN Security Council to press for restraint and calm in a rare letter to express concern that the violence could spiral into a "humanitarian catastrophe."

Reuters reporters saw hundreds more exhausted Rohingya arriving on boats near the Bangladeshi border village of Shamlapur on Tuesday, suggesting the exodus is far from over.

The International Organization for Migration says humanitarian assistance needs to increase urgently saying it and partner agencies has a funding gap of $US18 million ($A23 million) over the next three months to boost lifesaving services for the new arrivals.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said after meeting Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka that Jakarta was ready to help Bangladesh in dealing with the crisis.

"This humanitarian crisis shall be ended. I want to repeat, this humanitarian crisis shall be ended", she told reporters in Dhaka, a day after she held talks in the Myanmar capital.

The latest violence in Myanmar's northwestern Rakhine state began on August 25, when Rohingya insurgents attacked dozens of police posts and an army base. The ensuing clashes and a military counter-offensive have killed at least 400 people and triggered the exodus of villagers to Bangladesh.

Myanmar officials blamed Rohingya militants for the burning of homes and civilian deaths, but rights monitors and Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh say the Myanmar army is trying to force them out with a campaign of arson and killings.

When asked if the violence could be described as ethnic cleansing, Guterres told reporters on Tuesday: "We are facing a risk, I hope we don't get there."

"I appeal to all, all authorities in Myanmar, civilian authorities and military authorities, to indeed put an end to this violence that, in my opinion, is creating a situation that can destabilise the region," he said.

The treatment of Buddhist-majority Myanmar's roughly 1.1 million Muslim Rohingya is the biggest challenge facing Suu Kyi, who has been accused by Western critics of not speaking out for the minority that has long complained of persecution.

Myanmar says its security forces are fighting a legitimate campaign against "terrorists."

H.T. Imam, a political adviser to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said other Association of Southeast Asian Nations countries should join Indonesia in pressuring Myanmar.

Malaysia, another ASEAN member, summoned Myanmar's ambassador to express displeasure over the violence and scolded Myanmar for making "little, if any" progress on the problem.

NZN