UN Warns of Catastrophe as 150,000 People Flee Myanmar for Bangladesh

Nearly 125,000 Rohingya refugees - seen as illegal immigrants in Buddhist Myanmar - have crossed into Bangladesh in recent weeks fleeing a security sweep by Myanmar forces who have been torching villages in response to attacks by Rohingya militants | © AFP
Nearly 125,000 Rohingya refugees - seen as illegal immigrants in Buddhist Myanmar - have crossed into Bangladesh in recent weeks fleeing a security sweep by Myanmar forces who have been torching villages in response to attacks by Rohingya militants | © AFP
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UN Warns of Catastrophe as 150,000 People Flee Myanmar for Bangladesh

Nearly 125,000 Rohingya refugees - seen as illegal immigrants in Buddhist Myanmar - have crossed into Bangladesh in recent weeks fleeing a security sweep by Myanmar forces who have been torching villages in response to attacks by Rohingya militants | © AFP
Nearly 125,000 Rohingya refugees - seen as illegal immigrants in Buddhist Myanmar - have crossed into Bangladesh in recent weeks fleeing a security sweep by Myanmar forces who have been torching villages in response to attacks by Rohingya militants | © AFP

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Tuesday voiced his concern about violencetaking place in Rakhine state in Myanmar, calling on authorities to take steps to provide Muslim Rohingyas there with “a normal life.”

Nearly 150,000 Rohingya Muslims have crossed the border to Bangladesh in less than two weeks, officials said on Wednesday after Guterres warned there is a risk of ethnic cleansing in the former Burma that could spiral into a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

The UN Chief said that he has officially written to the Security Council, calling for a strong message to be sent to Myanmar on the need to end the violence in Rakhine and ringing alarm bells on the security, humanitarian and human rights situation.

“The grievances and unresolved plight of the Rohingya have festered for far too long and are becoming an undeniable factor in regional destabilization,” Guterres told reporters in New York. “This will only further increase radicalization.”

“The authorities in Myanmar must take determined action to put an end to this vicious cycle of violence and to provide security and assistance to all those in need.”

The UN chief last week had called for restraint by the security forces to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe from the refugee exodus, but on Tuesday he stepped up the pressure, appealing to authorities to end the violence.

Myanmar’s government must grant the Rohingya “either nationality or at least, for now, a legal status that will alow them to have a normal life including freedom of movement, access to labor markets, education and health services,” he said.

The Muslim Rohingya are seen as illegal immigrants in mainly Buddhist Myanmar and have suffered decades of persecution, according to rights groups.

The United Nations has repeatedly called on Myanmar to grant the Rohingya rights, and a recent UN report said the brutal crackdown against the Muslim minority could amount to crimes against humanity.

Meanwhile, UN agencies in the region appealed on Tuesday for $18 million to aid for three months the civilians who are rushing into Bangladesh.

“Clear signs that more will cross into Bangladesh from Myanmar before situation stabilizes,” said the Director of Operations and Emergencies at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Mohammed Abdiker, on Twitter. “Without more int[ernational] support, suffering will continue.”

Thousands of people are arriving daily in south-eastern Bangladesh, living in makeshift sites and seeking any space for shelter.



NATO Chief Says the Alliance Is Adapting Its Nuclear Arsenal to Security Threats

 NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg gives a press conference on the eve of a NATO Defense ministers meeting at the organization's headquarters in Brussels on June 12, 2024. (AFP)
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg gives a press conference on the eve of a NATO Defense ministers meeting at the organization's headquarters in Brussels on June 12, 2024. (AFP)
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NATO Chief Says the Alliance Is Adapting Its Nuclear Arsenal to Security Threats

 NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg gives a press conference on the eve of a NATO Defense ministers meeting at the organization's headquarters in Brussels on June 12, 2024. (AFP)
NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg gives a press conference on the eve of a NATO Defense ministers meeting at the organization's headquarters in Brussels on June 12, 2024. (AFP)

In a rare reference to the Western nuclear arsenal, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday highlighted the alliance's efforts to adapt its capabilities to current security threats, taking note of Russia latest nuclear rhetoric and drills.

Talking to reporters before a two-day NATO defense ministers' meeting in Brussels that will include a gathering of the alliance's nuclear planning group, he called nuclear weapons NATO's "ultimate security guarantee" and a means to preserve peace.

While it is well known that the US has deployed nuclear bombs to several locations in Europe, NATO rarely talks about these weapons publicly.

Discussing what he called "the ongoing adaptation" of NATO's nuclear arsenal, Stoltenberg said the Netherlands in June declared the first F-35 fighter jets ready to carry nuclear arms and said the US was modernizing its nuclear weapons in Europe.

He described increasing Russian activity around its nuclear capabilities. "What we have seen over the last years and months is a dangerous nuclear rhetoric from the Russian side.... We also see some more exercises, nuclear exercises on the Russian side," he said.

On Tuesday, Russia said its troops had started the second stage of drills to practice the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons alongside Belarusian troops after what Moscow said were threats from Western powers.

Since sending thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly said Moscow could use nuclear weapons to defend itself in extreme situations.

Russia accuses the US and its European allies of pushing the world to the brink of nuclear confrontation by giving Ukraine billions of dollars worth of weapons, some of which are being used against Russian territory.

Stoltenberg also referred also to the modernization of China's nuclear weapons, saying Beijing was expected to boost the number of nuclear missiles within a few years and many of them would be able to reach NATO territory.