Muslims hold pictures and banners as they protest in front of Myanmar's embassy in Bangkok (Reuters)

Saudi Arabia has accused Myanmar's authorities of ethnic cleansing the Muslim community - described by the UN as the most persecuted minority on earth.

The Saudi cabinet, which is chaired by King Abdullah, has also condemned the "brutal attacks" made against members of the Islamic Rohingya community in the western state of Rakhine, and urged the international community "to take up its responsibilities by providing protection and quality of life to Muslims in Myanmar and preventing further loss of life."

The international NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleges that Myanmar's security forces have killed and raped scores of Muslims during the ongoing sectarian conflict in Rakhine, between members of the Arakan Buddhist sect and the Islamic Rohingya community.

The conflict began in June 2011, when 10 Muslims were lynched by a crowd of angry Buddhists. According to one estimate, 80 people have been killed and more than 100,000 displaced during the conflict - however HRW believes this figure is "grossly underestimated".

Although there is no official state religion in Myanmar, the majority of the population are Buddhist. The Rohingya have never been given Myanmese citizenship, and are seen as illegal immigrants by the country's government - president Thein Sein has said that the best way to end violence against the Rohingya would be to send them to another country.

However neighbouring Bangladesh has provided little encouragement to Muslims seeking sanctuary across the border, and has even ordered three international charities to desist from providing aid to Rohingya refugees.


In addition to the Saudi cabinet, the head of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has decried the ongoing violence in Myanmar.

Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu "expressed disappointment over the failure of the international community to take action to stop the massacres, violations, oppression and ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the government of Myanmar against the Rohingya Muslims."