UNITED NATIONS -  The UN Security Council on Wednesday expressed concern about excessive force used by Myanmar during its security operation in Rakhine state and called for “immediate steps” to end the violence .

The unanimous statement followed a council meeting held behind closed doors to respond to the violence that has driven nearly 380,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee across the border to Bangladesh.

The council condemned the violence and called for humanitarian aid workers to be able to reach those in need in Rakhine state.

Ethiopian Ambassador Tekeda Alemu, who holds the council presidency, told reporters after the meeting that council members “expressed concern about reports of excessive violence during the security operations and called for immediate steps to end the violence in Rakhine.” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres earlier called for a halt to the military campaign in Rakhine and acknowledged that the mass displacement of Rohingya Muslims amounted to ethnic cleansing.

“I call on the Myanmar authorities to suspend military action, end the violence , uphold the rule of law and recognize the right of return of all those who had to leave the country,” the secretary general said in a press conference. Asked if he agreed the Rohingya population was being ethnically cleansed, he replied: “When one-third of the Rohingya population has got to flee the country, can you find a better word to describe it?”

The 1.1-million strong Rohingya have suffered years of discrimination in Myanmar , where they are denied citizenship even though many have longstanding roots in the country.

Guterres said the Myanmar government should either grant the Rohingya nationality or legal status that would allow them to live a normal life.

The Security Council met behind closed doors at the request of Britain and Sweden to try to agree on a response to the crisis, but diplomats said they expected China and Russia to resist calls for a strong statement.

“We need to see an end to the violence . We need to see immediate and widespread access to humanitarian aid and relief for the people of Burma and the people of Rakhine,” British Deputy UN Ambassador Jonathan Allen told reporters ahead of the meeting, referring to Myanmar by its name under British colonial rule.

Swedish Ambassador Olof Skoog said he hoped for a “unified outcome” and “clear messages about what needs to happen now.”

That message should be that “the military campaign that we have seen is stopped and that there is full respect for human rights and international humanitarian law,” said Skoog.

Meanwhile, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi will not attend the United Nations General Assembly this week, her spokesman said Wednesday, as the Nobel laureate faces a barrage of criticism over her failure to speak up for Rohingya Muslims fleeing Rakhine state in huge numbers.

A crackdown by Myanmar’s army, launched in response to Rohingya militant attacks on August 25, has sent some 379,000 Rohingya refugees scrambling across the border to Bangladesh in less than three weeks.

The violence has incubated a humanitarian crisis on both sides of the border and piled intense global pressure on Suu Kyi to condemn the army campaign, which the UN has described as having all the hallmarks of “ethnic cleansing”.

Bangladesh is struggling to provide relief for exhausted and hungry refugees - some 60 percent of whom are children - while nearly 30,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists as well as Hindus have been displaced inside Myanmar .

Seven bodies believed to be those of Rohingya Muslims washed ashore in Bangladesh on Wednesday, officials said, highlighting the risks many of the persecuted group are taking to flee violence in neighbouring Myanmar .

At least 99 Rohingya are now known to have died making the perilous crossing on flimsy boats since a crisis erupted on August 25 in Rakhine state. “We found seven bodies today washed up on our shore, including children,” Border Guard Bangladesh commander Lieutenant Colonel S.M. Ariful Islam told AFP.

The lost Rohingya boy made the journey from Myanmar alone, following strangers from other villages across rivers and jungle until they reached Bangladesh, where he had no family and no idea where to go.

“Some women in the group asked, ‘Where are your parents?’ I said I didn’t know where they were,” said Abdul Aziz, a 10-year-old whose name has been changed to protect his identity.

“A woman said, ‘We’ll look after you like our own child, come along’. After that I went with them.”

More than 1,100 Rohingya children fleeing violence in western Myanmar have arrived alone in Bangladesh since August 25, according to the latest UNICEF figures.

Over just two days, 2,000 children came through a single ‘safe space’ in Kutupalong, little larger than a classroom with just a few staff on hand.

Nine thousand more Rohingya refugees poured into Bangladesh on Wednesday, the UN said, as authorities worked to build a new camp for tens of thousands of arrivals who have no shelter.

Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s first civilian leader in decades, has no control over the powerful military, which ran the country for 50 years before allowing free elections in 2015. She will address the crisis engulfing Rakhine state next week, in her first speech since scores were killed in violence .

At a press conference late Wednesday government spokesman Zaw Htay said Suu Kyi would “speak for national reconciliation and peace” in a televised address on September 19.

There is also scant sympathy among Myanmar’s Buddhist majority for the Rohingya, a stateless Muslim group branded “Bengalis” - shorthand for illegal immigrants.

But outside of her country Suu Kyi’s reputation as a defender of the oppressed is in ruins over the Rohingya crisis.

Rights groups have pilloried the former democracy activist for failing to speak out against the army campaign, which has left hundreds dead.

Rohingya refugees have told chilling accounts of soldiers firing on civilians and razing entire villages in northern Rakhine state with the help of Buddhist mobs.

The army denies the allegations, while Suu Kyi has also played down claims of atrocities, instead blaming “a huge iceberg of misinformation” for complicating the conflict.

The UN Security Council was scheduled Wednesday to discuss the refugee crisis in a closed-door meeting, with China expected to shoot down any efforts to censure its strategically pivotal Southeast Asian ally.

“The state counsellor won’t attend the meeting of the United Nations General Assembly,” government spokesman Zaw Htay told AFP, adding that the vice president would go in her place.

He did not comment further but told local media that Suu Kyi was staying in Myanmar to focus on domestic issues.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner garlanded for her dignified and defiant democracy activism under Myanmar’s former junta, was once the darling of the international community.

She made her debut before the UN assembly last September, winning warm applause for a speech delivered months after she became Myanmar’s first civilian leader following a decades-long democracy struggle under the former junta.

In it she vowed to find a solution to long-running ethnic and religious hatred in Rakhine “that will lead to peace, stability and development for all communities within the state”.

In a sign of how far Suu Kyi’s star has fallen since, the same rights groups that campaigned for her release from house arrest have blasted her for failing to speak up in defence of the Rohingya.

Sympathisers say her hands are tied by the army, which still runs a chunk of the government and has complete control over all security matters.

But fellow Nobel laureates have lined up to condemn her silence, with Archbishop Desmond Tutu calling it “incongruous for a symbol of righteousness to lead such a country”.

While the US and other Western powers have criticised the military campaign, Beijing on Tuesday offered Myanmar support saying the country was entitled to “safeguard” its stability.

Human Rights Watch’s Phil Robertson urged the council to pass a “global arms embargo” on Myanmar’s military, but said he expected China to to water down any reaction.

The 1.1-million strong Rohingya have suffered years of discrimination in Myanmar , where they were stripped of their citizenship despite having long roots in the country.

Bangladesh does not want the group either, though it is providing the refugees with temporary shelter.