Yangon: The fate of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority took centre stage on Monday as regional ministers held crisis talks over a security crackdown that has drawn rare criticism from neighbouring nations.
More than 27,000 Rohingya have fled northwestern Myanmar for Bangladesh since the start of November to escape a heavy- handed counter-insurgency campaign.
The Army says it is hunting militants behind deadly raids on police posts in October.
But Rohingya survivors have described rape, murder and arson at the hands of security forces - accounts that have raised global alarm and galvanised protests in capitals around Southeast Asia.
The exodus has caused an unusual open spat within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the regional 10-member block that usually prides itself on consensus diplomacy and non-interference.
Today, foreign ministers from the bloc met in Yangon for emergency talks, a gathering Malaysia said was the result of pressure building on Myanmar to resolve the crisis.
"Constant pressure from both the international community as well as Malaysia has led us to this point and to the retreat to be held," Malaysia's foreign minister Anifah Aman said ahead of the talks.
The vast majority of Myanmar's Rohingya population are denied citizenship and have lived for years under movement restrictions that many have likened to apartheid.
Thousands have fled over the years on rickety boats, seeking sanctuary in Muslim majority countries like Malaysia and Indonesia.
The latest crackdown in Rakhine generated a fresh wave of public anger, particularly in Malaysia, where tens of thousands of Rohingya eke out tough and often dangerous lives as undocumented workers.