Rohingya plight, a "humanitarian and human rights nightmare": Guterres

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New arrivals in Bangladesh's Ukhiya area right after crossing the border with Myanmar's northern Rakhine state. Photo: UNHCR/Vivian Tan

The plight of around half a million Rohingya forced to flee their homes in Myanmar has become a "humanitarian and human rights nightmare," said the UN chief on Thursday.

António Guterres was briefing the Security Council during an open debate on the crisis that has overwhelmed authorities in neighbouring Bangladesh, and become the world's "fastest developing refugee emergency."

More details from Matt Wells.

The Secretary-General said the mainly Muslim Rohingya had given UN staff "bone-chilling" accounts of violence and human rights abuse.

Their homes had been torched and abandoned, indicating a "deeply disturbing pattern" of systematic violence by security forces, which now threatened an additional 250,000 Muslims in central Rakhine state.

His message to civilian and, most importantly, military authorities in Myanmar, was clear.

"The violence in Rakhine – whether by the military or radical elements within communities – must end. The Myanmar authorities must fulfil their fundamental obligation of ensuring the safety and security of all communities and upholding the rule of law without discrimination…I ask members of the Security Council to join me in urging that all those who have fled to Bangladesh be able to exercise their right to a safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return to their homes."

He said Myanmar's offer of allowing some Rohingya to return under a 1993 accord, was "not sufficient," adding that the UN was committed to a plan for voluntary return.

He welcomed the participation in the Security Council meeting of both Bangladesh and Myanmar, and talks between the two governments to resolve the refugee crisis.

Mr Guterres said the crisis had underlined an "urgent need for a political solution to the root causes of violence."

Matt Wells, United Nations.

Duration: 1'28"

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