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UN Warns of Catastrophe as 150,000 People Flee Myanmar for Bangladesh | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Nearly 125,000 Rohingya refugees – seen as illegal immigrants in Buddhist Myanmar – have crossed into Bangladesh in recent weeks fleeing a security sweep by Myanmar forces who have been torching villages in response to attacks by Rohingya militants | © AFP

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday voiced his concern about violencetaking place in Rakhine state in Myanmar, calling on authorities to take steps to provide Muslim Rohingyas there with “a normal life.”

Nearly 150,000 Rohingya Muslims have crossed the border to Bangladesh in less than two weeks, officials said on Wednesday after Guterres warned there is a risk of ethnic cleansing in the former Burma that could spiral into a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

The UN Chief said that he has officially written to the Security Council, calling for a strong message to be sent to Myanmar on the need to end the violence in Rakhine and ringing alarm bells on the security, humanitarian and human rights situation.

“The grievances and unresolved plight of the Rohingya have festered for far too long and are becoming an undeniable factor in regional destabilization,” Guterres told reporters in New York. “This will only further increase radicalization.”

“The authorities in Myanmar must take determined action to put an end to this vicious cycle of violence and to provide security and assistance to all those in need.”

The UN chief last week had called for restraint by the security forces to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe from the refugee exodus, but on Tuesday he stepped up the pressure, appealing to authorities to end the violence.

Myanmar’s government must grant the Rohingya “either nationality or at least, for now, a legal status that will alow them to have a normal life including freedom of movement, access to labor markets, education and health services,” he said.

The Muslim Rohingya are seen as illegal immigrants in mainly Buddhist Myanmar and have suffered decades of persecution, according to rights groups.

The United Nations has repeatedly called on Myanmar to grant the Rohingya rights, and a recent UN report said the brutal crackdown against the Muslim minority could amount to crimes against humanity.

Meanwhile, UN agencies in the region appealed on Tuesday for $18 million to aid for three months the civilians who are rushing into Bangladesh.

“Clear signs that more will cross into Bangladesh from Myanmar before situation stabilizes,” said the Director of Operations and Emergencies at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Mohammed Abdiker, on Twitter. “Without more int[ernational] support, suffering will continue.”

Thousands of people are arriving daily in south-eastern Bangladesh, living in makeshift sites and seeking any space for shelter.