United Nations chief presses for release of arrested Reuters journalists in Myanmar


At least 9,000 people died in Myanmar between August 25 and September 24, bringing the death toll during the first month of the military crackdown to nearly 14,000 - including 1,000 children under age 5.

The U.S. Embassy in Myanmar on Friday sought to up pressure on the country's government over the whereabouts of two Reuters journalists who have been held captive for days, according to reports. Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh say their exodus from the mainly Buddhist nation was triggered by a military offensive in response to Rohingya militant attacks on security forces at the end of August.

The Myanmar Press Council says police have arrested two journalists working for an global news organization on suspicion of possessing "secret police documents" related to the ongoing crisis in Rakhine state.

He called for aid to be delivered, violence contained and reconciliation promoted in Rakhine State, and for the Rohingyas' right of return to be fully respected and implemented. "What we uncovered was staggering, both in terms of the numbers of people who reported a family member died as a result of violence, and the horrific ways in which they said they were killed or severely injured", Sidney Wong, MSF's medical director, said in a statement.

"The peak in deaths coincides with the launch of the latest "clearance operations" by Myanmar security forces in the last week of August", MSF reported.

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Reuters global communications chief Abbe Serphos said: "We are urgently seeking more information about the circumstances of their arrest and their current situation".

The mostly Muslim minority are denied citizenship by Myanmar, where they are seen as immigrants from Bangladesh.

They have told of atrocities committed by security forces including gang rape, execution-style killings and the razing of entire villages, leading the United Nations to claim that the situation in Rakhine appears to be "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

According to MSF, 69 percent of the violence-related deaths were caused by gunshots, 9 percent were due to being burnt to death in their houses and 5 percent were beaten to death.

"Currently people are still fleeing from Myanmar to Bangladesh and those who do manage to cross the border still report being subject to violence in recent weeks", Wong said.