China endorses Myanmar's crackdown

September 14, 2017

Rohingya refugees are flooding across the Myanmar border into Bangladesh to escape violence.

Myanmar's presidential spokesman says 176 ethnic Rohingya villages are now empty after all of their residents fled during recent violence in Rakhine state.

On Wednesday Zaw Htay said there had been a total of 471 Rohingya villages in three townships. He said in addition to the 176 that were abandoned, some residents fled from at least 34 other villages.

Rohingya Muslims face widespread persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where the recent violence has forced about 370,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh,

In response to growing international outrage Myanmar's national leader Aung San Suu Kyi won't attend the upcoming UN General Assembly session in New York.

The crisis over the security forces' fierce response to a series of Rohingya militant attacks is the biggest problem Suu Kyi has faced since becoming Myanmar's leader last year.

Critics have called for Suu Kyi to be stripped of her Nobel peace prize for failing to do more to halt the strife.

The UN Security Council will meet on Wednesday behind closed doors for the second time since the latest crisis erupted.

Rights groups denounced the 15-member council for not holding a public meeting. Diplomats have said China and Russia would likely object to such a move and protect Myanmar if there was any push for council action to try and end the crisis.

Meanwhile the Myanmar government has warned of bomb attacks in cities and those concerns are likely to be compounded by an al-Qaeda call to arms in support of the Rohingya.

On Wednesday, Zaw Htay did not use the name Rohingya. Members of the ethnic group are commonly referred to as "Bengalis" by many in Myanmar who insist they migrated illegally from Bangladesh.

Zaw Htay also said Myanmar would not allow all people who fled to return.

"We have to verify them. We can only accept them after they are verified."

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