The UN Security Council and Secretary General have expressed serious concerns over the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar urging the government to act swiftly. In a statement on Wednesday, 13 September, the UNSC strongly condemned the violence against ethnic Rohingyas.

The latest round of fighting broke out in late August when extremists reportedly attacked Myanmar's security forces. The crisis snowballed with the Myanmar army pressing ahead with counter-terror operations in restive regions. As many as 370,000 minority Rohingyas have been forced to flee the country in the wake of the recent violence.

The 15-member UNSC held a closed-door meeting at the request of Sweden and Britain on Wednesday, the second time the global body met to address the escalating Rohingya crisis.

Following the discussions, the council "expressed concern about reports of excessive violence during the security operations and called for immediate steps to end the violence in Rakhine, de-escalate the situation, re-establish law and order, ensure the protection of civilians ... and resolve the refugee problem".

This was the first time the UNSC agreed on a unanimous response after countries like China and Russia, which have traditionally shielded Myanmar from any serious action, came on board.

UN chief Antonio Guterres called the persecution of Rohingyas "catastrophic" and "completely unacceptable", and asked Myanmar authorities to immediately suspend the military crackdown.

When asked at a press conference in New York whether he would describe the violence against Rohingya Muslims as "ethnic cleansing", he replied: "When one-third of the Rohingya population has got to flee the country, can you find a better word to describe it?"

"I call on the Myanmar authorities to suspend military action, end the violence, uphold the rule of law and recognise the right of return of all those who had to leave the country."

Rohingya are technically considered stateless minorities in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, formerly Burma. Under decades-long junta rule, the ethnic group has faced severe persecution.

Rohingya Muslim Buddhist Myanmar Bangladesh
Rohingya Muslim refugees wade through water in Dakhinpara after crossing by boat into Bangladesh from Myanmar Dan Kitwood/Getty Images