UNITED NATIONS, March 26 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was shocked by remarks attributed to the Myanmar army chief regarding the Rohingya, Guterres' deputy spokesman said Monday.
"The secretary-general is shocked at reports today of remarks attributed to Myanmar Senior General U Min Aung Hlaing," said Farhan Haq in a statement.
At a gathering in northern Kachin state, Min Aung Hlaing reportedly referred to the Rohingya as "Bengalis" and said they "do not have the characteristics or culture in common with the ethnicities of Myanmar."
The UN chief urged all leaders in Myanmar to take a unified stance against incitement to hatred and to promote communal harmony, said the UN statement. "Such leadership is critically needed to advance institutional measures to combat discrimination and implement the recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission."
The secretary-general reiterated the importance of addressing the root causes of the violence and the responsibility of the Myanmar government to provide security and assistance to those in need, said the statement.
Meanwhile, it is critical that conditions are put in place to ensure that the Rohingya are able to return home voluntarily, in safety and in dignity, it added.
Rebel Rohingya militia launched deadly attacks against security forces in Myanmar's northern Rakhine State on Aug. 25, 2017, allegedly triggering retaliation by Myanmar vigilantes and government troops. Some 688,000 Rohingya refugees had crossed into neighboring Bangladesh by February 2018.