Two human rights groups accused the UN Security Council on Tuesday of ignoring large-scale "ethnic cleansing" of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims who are fleeing across the border to Bangladesh.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International representatives made the charge during a news conference held at UN headquarters ahead of closed council discussions Wednesday on the Myanmar crisis, saying they wanted to spotlight the failure of the UN's most powerful body to demand an end to the violence being used by Myanmar to chase out Rohingya.
UN officials have said 370,000 Rohingyas have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 25 and thousands more are arriving every day.
Louis Charbonneau, the UN director for Human Rights Watch, said that "this is an international peace and security crisis," with people dying and villages burning. He said there is no excuse for the Security Council "sitting on its hands."
"The situation in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state was totally predictable," Charbonneau said."The UN Security Council should have seen this coming long ago. We got a taste of it last year, on a smaller scale: killings, burnings of villages ... It's now much worse"
Echoing UN human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, Charbonneau said, "This is ethnic cleansing on a large scale, it seems."
Russia and China, both veto-wielding permanent members, are supportive of Myanmar's government.
Tiran Hassan, Amnesty International's emergencies director, spoke by video from Cox's Bazar in southeastern Bangladesh where the Rohingyas have arrived in what she called "a sea of human misery."
She said "every day there are more horrors," including looking across the river at smoke rising from the Myanmar town of Maungdaw in Rakhine state.