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  1. ITV Report

Rohingya Muslims face 'catastrophic' humanitarian crisis

A Rohingya girl peeps out from her temporary shelter in Nepal. Credit: AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha

The UN secretary general has called on authorities in Myanmar to end the violence against Rohingya Muslims after a third of the population fled the country.

Antonio Guterres said the Rohingyas faced a "catastrophic" humanitarian crisis after the violence in the majority-Buddist country, describing the situation as ethnic cleansing.

Around 379,000 Rohingyas have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since the violence began last month.

“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,” Guterres said.

Newly arrived Rohingya women along with their children in a refugee camp in Bangladesh. Credit: AP Photo/Dar Yasin

Pressure has been mounting on Myanmar - formerly known as Burma - to end the violence, with the United States calling for protection of civilians and Bangladesh urging safe zones to enable refugees to go home.

Asked if the situation could be described as ethnic cleansing, Guterres replied: “Well I would answer your question with another question: When one-third of the Rohingya population had to flee the country, could you find a better word to describe it?”

Newly arrived Rohingya wait for their turn to collect building material for their shelters from aid agencies. Credit: AP Photo/Dar Yasin

The secretary-general also said he has spoken to Myanmar's national leader Aung San Suu Kyi, several times.

“This is a dramatic tragedy. People are dying and suffering at horrible numbers and we need to stop it. That is my main concern,” he said.

With pressure mounting on Suu Kyi to take action, her office said she had cancelled a trip to the upcoming UN General Assembly to deal with the crisis.

The government of Myanmar says its security forces are fighting Rohingya militants behind a surge of violence in Rakhine state and they are doing all they can to avoid harming civilians.

The government says around 400 people have been killed in the fighting.