United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (R) speaks during a press conference on the occasion of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, at the UN headquarters in New York, Sept. 13, 2017. Antonio Guterres Wednesday announced two reform initiatives with regard to peace and gender equality. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)
UNITED NATIONS, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council on Wednesday expressed "deep concern" over the situation in Rakhine State of Myanmar and called for an end to violence against the Rohingya, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority group.
"The members of the Security Council expressed deep concern about the situation in Rakhine State. acknowledging the initial attack (by Rohingyas) on Myanmar security forces on Aug. 25, they condemned the subsequent violence (by Myanmar security forces), which has led to over 370,000 people being displaced," said Tekeda Alemu, president of the Security Council, in a readout of the council's agreement following closed-door consultations on Wednesday.
"They expressed concern about reports of excessive violence during the security operations and called for immediate steps to end the violence in Rakhine, de-escalate the situation, re-establish law and order, ensure the protection of civilians, restore normal socio-economic conditions and resolve the refugee problem."
Earlier Wednesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the situation in Myanmar's Rakhine as "catastrophic." The number of refugees fleeing into Bangladesh has tripled since last week, reaching nearly 380,000. Women and children are arriving hungry and malnourished, Guterres told reporters. He called on all countries to do what they can to help the refugees.
The Security Council consultations came after Guterres wrote a letter to the council to express concern.
"I have condemned the attacks made by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in Rakhine State, but there have been disturbing reports of attacks by security forces against civilians, which are completely unacceptable. Aid activities by UN agencies and international nongovernmental organizations have been severely disrupted," said Guterres.
"I call on the Myanmar authorities to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law, and recognize the right of return of all those who had to leave the country.
"I urge them to ensure the delivery of vital humanitarian aid by United Nations agencies, nongovernmental organizations and others. I repeat my call for an effective action plan to address the root causes of the crisis. The Muslims of Rakhine State must be granted nationality, or at least for now, a legal status that allows them to lead a normal life, including freedom of movement and access to labor markets, education and health services."
The Rohingya people are denied citizenship under a 1982 Myanmar citizenship law. The Myanmar government recognizes them as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh. They were brought by British from Bangladesh during colonial era years as workers and settlers, since British controlled Bangladesh and Myanmar back then. Since the beginning of the latest crackdown, over a third of Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh.
On Wednesday, the Security Council welcomed the Bangladeshi government's assistance to the refugees and welcomed UN and other international efforts to support the Bangladeshi government in this regard, according to Alemu, Ethiopia's ambassador to the United Nations.
They called on the Myanmar government to fulfil its commitments to providing assistance to refugees without discrimination and facilitate humanitarian assistance to those in need and to ensure the protection and safety of humanitarian workers.
The council members encouraged dialogue among the states concerned and agreed on the importance of a long-term solution to the problem in Rakhine. In this context, they called for the implementation of recommendations of an advisory commission on Rakhine State led by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan.