United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres says Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar are facing a risk of ethnic cleansing as the government continues the persecution of the minority in the western state of Rakhine.
The UN chief on Tuesday also appealed to authorities to end violence that was “creating a situation that can destabilize the region.”
Guterres said he had written to the UN Security Council to express his concern and propose steps to end the violence.
When asked about ethnic cleansing, the UN chief said, “We are facing a risk, I hope we don’t get there.”
Also on Tuesday, a rights group in Myanmar warned against the rising government-backed persecution of all Muslims across the country, and not just those in Rohingya-majority Rakhine, which has been under a bloody army clampdown since August 25.
The UK-based independent Burma Human Rights Network said in a report that the persisting repression of Muslims across the East Asian country was backed by government authorities, elements among the country’s majority Buddhist monks as well as ultra-nationalist civilian groups.
The latest eruption of violence in Rakhine has killed more than 400 people and triggered an exodus of the Rohingya to Bangladesh.
According to the latest figures by the United Nations, nearly 125,000 refugees from Rakhine have fled to Bangladesh since violence escalated in late August, overwhelming existing camps for the displaced.
Bangladesh was already home to about 400,000 Rohingya Muslims before the current crisis and has made clear it does not want to take in more.
Several Muslim countries have strongly denounced and staged protests against Myanmar’s government over the persecution of the Rohingya.
Several world leaders have called on Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to end the violence.
A winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Suu Kyi has done next to nothing to end the plight of the minority Muslims.
Human Rights Watch earlier said satellite imagery showed 700 buildings were burned in the Rohingya Muslim village of Chein Khar Li, just one of the 17 locations in Rakhine, where the rights group has documented burning of homes and property.
Myanmar’s government brands more than one million Rohingya Muslims in the country as “illegal immigrants” from Bangladesh. Rohingya Muslims, however, have had roots in the country that go back centuries. They are considered by the UN the “most persecuted minority group in the world.”
There have been numerous eyewitness accounts of summary executions, rapes, and arson attacks by the military since the crackdown against the minority group began.
The UN believes the government of Myanmar might have committed ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in its crackdown.