Over the course of the past few days, the United Nations has shifted its tone on the Rohingya crackdown in Myanmar, finally describing it as ethnic cleansing on Wednesday.
The Associated Press reports that U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters that Myanmar must uphold the rights of the Rohingya, a Muslim minority without citizenship rights in the Buddhist majority country.
Earlier in the week, U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said the violence that has so far driven over 300,000 Rohingya out of their homes in Rakhine state and into Bangladesh “seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
Guterres was more emphatic — he didn’t say the attacks merely looked like ethnic cleansing. He said: “When one-third of the Rohingya population had to flee the country, can you find a better word to describe it?”
The AP also reports that 176 of 471 Rohingya villages have been totally abandoned, their inhabitants having fled to either neighboring Bangladesh or hiding in the forests on the Myanmar side of the border.
Additionally, according to Reuters, the office of Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday said she will not be attending the upcoming U.N. General Assembly in New York in order to concentrate “on establishing stability.”
Suu Kyi has been under increasing international pressure to put an end to the crackdown and restore the rule of law in her country.
This latest round of fighting started about a month ago when Rohingya insurgents launched deadly attacks on police posts. Since then Myanmar has deployed hundreds of soldiers throughout Rakhine state. Hundreds of Rohingya described as terrorists by Mynamar authorities have been killed since then.
There are also reports that several villages have been burned to the ground by government troops, although authorities say the Rohingya have been burning down their own homes.