Violence against the Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar appears to be ethnic cleansing, the U.S. envoy to the UN said Thursday.
“We cannot be afraid to call the actions of the Burmese authorities what they appear to be: a brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority,” Nikki Haley told the Security Council during its first open meeting on Myanmar in eight years.
Haley said the Naypyidaw government must allow media and humanitarian access to Rakhine state, home to the Rohingya, if its claim of fighting terrorists is true.
The ongoing violence “should shame senior Burmese leaders who have sacrificed so much for an open democratic Burma”, Haley said, using Myanmar’s former name.
Haley also urged all countries to suspend arms sales to Myanmar and the prosecution of military members involved in the bloodshed.
More than 500,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since August, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Thursday.
Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq called it “the largest mass refugee movement in the region in decades”.
Since Aug. 25, approximately 480,000 Rohingya have crossed from Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine into Bangladesh, according to the UN.
The refugees are fleeing a fresh security operation in which security forces and Buddhist mobs have killed men, women and children, looted homes and torched Rohingya villages.
According to Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hasan Mahmood Ali, around 3,000 Rohingya have been killed in the crackdown.
Turkey has been at the forefront of providing aid to Rohingya refugees and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will raise the issue at the UN.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world’s most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
Last October, following attacks on border posts in Rakhine’s Maungdaw district, security forces launched a five-month crackdown in which, according to Rohingya groups, around 400 people were killed.
The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.