Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the international community to step up efforts to help Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority, saying the world was “blind and deaf” to their plight.
The Rohingya, one of the world’s largest stateless communities, are fleeing in droves towards Bangladesh, trying to escape the latest surge in violence in Rakhine state between a shadowy militant group and Myanmar’s military.
The UN refugee agency said Monday more than 3,000 had arrived in the past three days, as people told of how they fled for their lives from Myanmar’s army.
“Unfortunately I can say the world is blind and deaf to what is going on in Myanmar,” Erdogan said in a live television interview marking his three years as president.
“It does not hear and it does not see,” he added.
He described the latest flight of refugees towards Bangladesh as an “extremely painful event” and vowed to take up the issue at the UN General Assembly next month.
“Of course we condemn this in the strongest possible manner. And we will follow this up through international institutions, including at the United Nations,” added the president.
“We want to see all mankind extending a hand here,” he added.
Erdogan takes a sharp interest in the fate of Muslim communities across the world and notably sees himself as a champion of the Palestinian cause.
Impoverished Rakhine, which neighbours Bangladesh, has become a crucible of religious hatred focused on the Rohingya, who are reviled and perceived as illegal immigrants in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
The government of de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has dismissed accusations of atrocities and refused visas to UN officials tasked with investigating the allegations — a stance that has caused dismay overseas.