About 38,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh to escape the violence, with another 20,000 marooned between the two countries, UN sources say. The UN Security Council on Wednesday met on the violence and crackdown on Rohingya insurgents.
Around 38,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence in Myanmar during the past week and a further 20,000 are marooned in no man's land between the two countries, UN sources said on Friday.
They were speaking after a UN Security Council on Wednesday held a closed door meeting on the violence in Myanmar where clashes started a week ago between Rohingya insurgents and security forces.
There was no formal statement from the 15-member council following the closed-door meeting but British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said there were calls from council members for de-escalation.
"We all condemned the violence, we all called on all the parties to de-escalate," Rycroft told reporters.
The United Nations, while condemning the militant attacks, has pressured Myanmar to protect civilian lives without discrimination and appealed to Bangladesh to admit those fleeing.
Meanwhile, the Myanmar government expelled international aid groups from the region earlier this week, saying, without evidence, that they were helping fighters.
TRT World's Christine Pirovolakis reports.
The clashes began on August 25 after insurgents from the Rohingya minority staged deadly surprise raids on police posts.
The army, responding to the attacks, launched what it called clearance operations against the insurgents, but advocates for the Rohingya say they are attacking and burning Rohingya villages, shooting civilians and causing others to flee.
Government figures say the violence has left at least 110 people, including 11 state officials, dead and thousands of Rohingya have poured across the border to Bangladesh despite Dhaka's attempts to stop them.
Rohingya advocates fear the death toll for civilians is much higher.
Bangladeshi border guards on Thursday recovered the bodies of 20 Rohingya women and children whose boat capsized as they fled Myanmar.
"People are traumatised"
Since the attacks, close to 19,000 Rohingya - mostly women and children - had registered in Bangladesh by Wednesday, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said.
"They are in a very, very desperate condition," said Sanjukta Sahany, who runs the IOM office in the southern town of Cox's Bazar near the border.
"The biggest needs are food, health services and they need shelter. They need at least some cover, some roofs over their heads."
Sahany said many crossed "with bullet injuries and burn injuries," and that aid workers reported that some refugees "gave a blank look" when questioned.
"People are traumatised, which is quite visible."
Myanmar's military has been carrying out sweeps for militants, with residents reporting that security forces were torching villages.
Britain requested Wednesday's UNSC meeting on Myanmar, but diplomats said China was resisting stronger involvement by the UN council in addressing the crisis.
It remained unclear whether further action was planned, but the issue is expected to be discussed during the annual gathering of world leaders at the General Assembly in September.
Rakhine state is home to Myanmar's Rohingya
Most of Myanmar's estimated 1 million Rohingya live in northern Rakhine state.
They face severe persecution in the Buddhist-majority country, which refuses to recognise them as a legitimate native ethnic minority, leaving them without citizenship and basic rights.
National leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been accused by critics of not speaking out for a minority that has long complained of persecution.
Longstanding tension between the Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists erupted in bloody rioting in 2012. That set off a surge of anti-Muslim feeling throughout the country.
Buddhist extremists stoke anti-Rohingya sentiment
Wirathu, a Buddhist monk and leader of the anti-Muslim movement who is known for virulent sermons, told anti-Rohingya protesters in Yangon on Wednesday that only the military can control the situation in northern Rakhine.
"Only the military's commander in chief can protect the lives and the properties of the people," Wirathu said.
"The military is the only one that can give a lesson to tame the Bengali terrorists."
Myanmar nationalists use the term 'Bengali' for Rohingya, claiming they immigrated illegally from Bangladesh, even though many of the minority Muslim families have been in Myanmar for generations.
Wirathu also denounced international aid groups that the government has accused, without evidence, of giving assistance to Rohingya insurgents.
The allegations have circulated widely on social media.
Britain's UN ambassador Rycroft said the Security Council looks to Suu Kyi to "to set the right tone and to find the compromises and the de-escalation necessary in order to resolve the conflict."
Escalation of long simmering conflict
The latest violence marks a dramatic escalation of a conflict that has simmered since October, when a similar, but much smaller, series of Rohingya attacks on security posts prompted a fierce military response, in which the UN has said security forces probably committed crimes against humanity.
The UN documented mass gang rape, killings, including of babies and children, brutal beatings, burned villages and disappearances.
Rohingya representatives have said approximately 400 people were slain during the operation.
"The situation is very terrifying, houses are burning, all the people ran away from their homes, parents and children were divided, some were lost, some are dead," Abdullah, 25, a Rohingya from the region of Buthidaung, said, struggling to hold back tears.
Abdullah said four of the six hamlets in his village of Mee Chaung Zay had been burned down by security forces, prompting all its residents to flee towards Bangladesh.
Thousands stranded in "no man's land"
Dhaka has asked the UN to pressure Myanmar over its treatment of the Muslim minority, saying it cannot take any more.
Bangladesh is already host to more than 400,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar since the early 1990s.
The sources said around 20,000 Rohingya were still stranded in no man's land between the two countries, with one predicting the figure could jump to 30,000 later on Thursday as people flee the worst violence involving Myanmar's Muslim minority in at least five years.
On Tuesday, reporters saw women, some carrying children and sick people, wade through the river, which narrows to less than 10 metres (11 yards) there.
Bangladeshi border guards allowed groups of about six to cross to reach a stack of donated medicines.
Many Rohingya trying to cross were sick and at least six died after crossing over, one aid worker said, adding that some refused to seek help for fear of being caught and sent back.
Shaheen Abdur Rahman, a doctor at a hospital in Cox's Bazar, said 15 people admitted since last week had gunshot wounds, varying from grazes to bleeding in the lung. Four serious cases were sent for treatment to nearby Chittagong.
Injuries also included fractures that could have been suffered in beatings or accidental falls while fleeing, he said.
"We don't discriminate," said Rahman. "Everyone coming to this hospital, whether they're Bangladeshi or not from Bangladesh, we provide due service to them."
UN supports Myanmar's Aung San Suu Kyi
Rycroft said the council still supports Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel prize laureate and democracy icon who now leads the government in Yangon.
"A lot of us are hugely supportive allies of hers who have followed her progress with admiration from afar," he said.
"We look to her to set the right tone and to find the compromises and the de-escalation necessary in order to resolve the conflict for the good of all the people in Burma."
Rycroft pointed to recommendations put forward by former UN chief Kofi Annan calling for an end to restrictions on citizenship and movement imposed on the Rohingyas as a way out of the violence.