UN Chief : End crisis in Rakhine

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday called for action from the Security Council to end the tragedy in Rakhine State of Myanmar.

“The reality on the ground demands action — swift action — to protect people, alleviate suffering, prevent further instability, address the roots of the situation and forge, at long last, a durable solution,” he told the Security Council.

“I call on the Security Council to stand united and support our efforts to urgently end this tragedy,” he said, when briefing the 15-member council on the situation in Rakhine.

Guterres said the crisis has steadily deteriorated since the Aug. 25 attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on the Myanmar security forces. “Since then, the situation has spiraled into the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency, a humanitarian and human rights nightmare,” he said.

At least 500,000 civilians have fled their homes and sought safety in neighboring Bangladesh. Although the total number of those displaced is unknown, it is estimated that 94 percent of them are Rohingyas, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority living in the largely Buddhist nation of Myanmar, he said.

“We have received bone-chilling accounts from those who fled — mainly women, children and the elderly. These testimonials point to excessive violence and serious violations of human rights, including indiscriminate firing of weapons, the use of landmines against civilians and sexual violence,” said Guterres, the former head of the UN refugee agency, UNHCR. “This is unacceptable and must end immediately.”

International human rights law and standards are clear: any use of force by the authorities must respect Myanmar’s human rights obligations under international law and comply with well-established human rights standards. Above all, these actions must fully respect the human rights of those affected, regardless of ethnicity or religion, said the UN chief.

The use of lethal force, even in situations of emergency, must be commensurate with the threat to the public order and utmost care must be taken to minimize loss of life and injury, especially for unarmed people and communities, he said.

The authorities have claimed that security operations ended on Sept. 5, following major displacements in northern Rakhine, where Rohingyas were the majority. However, displacement appears to have continued, with reports of the burning of Muslim villages, as well as looting and acts of intimidation, he said.

“There seems to be a deeply disturbing pattern to the violence and ensuing large movements of an ethnic group from their homes,” he said.

He warned that failure to address this systematic violence could result in a spill-over into central Rakhine, where an additional 250,000 Muslims could potentially face displacement.

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