Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Myanmar said it was negotiating with China and Russia to ensure they blocked any UN Security Council censure over the violence in Rakhine State. According to the UN, some 300,000 Rohingya Muslims might be forced to leave for neighbouring Bangladesh.
In Myanmar, most Burmese are opposed to the "disinformation" of the international community and other ethnic groups in Rakhine state claim that they have been the victims of aggression by armed Rohingya militants.
Meanwhile, in a rare letter to the UN Security Council, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern the violence in north-western Myanmar could spiral into a “humanitarian catastrophe”, warning that the risk of ethnic cleansing in the country could destabilise the region.
The Myanmar government has for its part repeatedly rejected the allegation, reiterating that its security forces are fighting a legitimate campaign against "Bengali terrorists" who carried out a series of attacks against police and army outposts since last October.
Yesterday, in her first official statement since 25 August, when the latest round of fighting broke out, Aung San Suu Kyi said that the "misinformation" with which international media and governments have handled the Rohingya case is “calculated to create a lot of problems between different communities and with the aim of promoting the interest of the terrorists”.
At a news conference in the capital, Naypyidaw, Myanmar National Security Adviser Thaung Tun said that the government was counting on China and Russia, both permanent members of the Security Council, to block a UN resolution on the crisis.
“We are negotiating with some friendly countries not to take it to the Security Council,” he said. “China is our friend and we have a similar friendly relationship with Russia, so it will not be possible for that issue to go forward.”
According to the latest estimates issued by UN workers on the ground, arrivals in just 12 days stood at 146,000.
UN officials in Bangladesh now estimate that the total number of refugees from Myanmar since 25 August could reach 300,000, said Dipayan Bhattacharyya, who is Bangladesh spokesman for the World Food Programme (WFP).
Members from other ethnic groups have also tried to escape the fighting in the northwestern area of Rakhine State. Local authorities and community leaders report that in the last few days about 4,000 tribals have reached Sittwe, the state capital.
More than 26,000 people had already fled from rural areas to Sittwe city and Maungdaw, Buthedaung, and other townships in Rakhine between 25 August and 4 September.
At least 59 villages have been burnt by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) during the same period, said the Myanmar’s Government Information Committee.
Individual donors are providing food and health care to those in need in Sittwe, and displaced persons are being housed at 21 Buddhist monasteries in the city, local sources told Radio Free Asia’s Myanmar Service.
Hundreds of Hindu families have joined the thousands of mainly Rakhine ethnic refugees now fleeing into Sittwe, with some saying their villages had been targeted in attacks by Muslim fighters.
“About 40 terrorists came into our village, beating villagers,” said Maung Hla, a Hindu refugee from a village in Maungdaw township. “They also beat my wife, and she was sent to Sittwe Hospital. They also killed my son-in-law that night,” he added.
At least 20 of the attackers wore long face coverings over camouflage shirts, with others clearly identifiable as local people, Maung Hla said.
“My grandchild’s family and a family of my relatives from Myinlhe village fled to Maungdaw as well, but they were fired on by terrorists on the road,” he said, adding, “One was sent to the hospital and is still alive, but the rest are all dead.”
“These Muslim terrorists set fire to villages,” he said. “I am 65 and we haven’t had any problems with the Muslims in the past. I don’t know why they did this to us.”