DHAKA -  Bangladesh’s foreign minister said Sunday that genocide was being waged in Myanmar’s violence-hit Rakhine state, triggering an exodus of nearly 300,000 Muslim Rohingya to his country.

“The international community is saying it is a genocide. We also say it is a genocide,” AH Mahmood Ali told reporters after briefing diplomats in Dhaka.

Ali met Western and Arab diplomats and the heads of UN agencies based in Bangladesh to seek support for a political solution and humanitarian aid for the Rohingya.

He told the diplomats that some 300,000 Rohingya had fled to Bangladesh in the past two weeks, taking the total number of such refugees in the country to over 700,000. “It is now a national problem,” Ali said.

At least two diplomats who attended the briefings said the minister told them as many as 3,000 people may have been killed in the latest round of violence.

The United Nations says 294,000 bedraggled and exhausted Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since attacks by Rohingya militants on Myanmar security forces in Rakhine on August 25 sparked a major military backlash.

Tens of thousands more are believed to be on the move inside Rakhine.

Mainly Buddhist Myanmar does not recognise its stateless Muslim Rohingya community, labelling them “Bengalis” - illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Ali accused Myanmar of running a “malicious propaganda” campaign to term the Rohingya “illegal migrants from Bangladesh” and the militants as “Bengali terrorists”.

He said the Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine are a “mixed group of people” with a history dating back 1,500 years and ancestors included Arab and Indian-origin people.

Ali described actions following the militant attacks on security forces on August 25 as “revenge” by Myanmar troops. “Should all people be killed? Should all villages be burnt? It is not acceptable,” he said, adding Dhaka was seeking a peaceful solution, not a “war” against Myanmar.

“We did not create the problem. Since the problem started in Myanmar, that’s why they should resolve. We have said we’ll help them,” he said, adding that the problem took a “new turn” after the August 25 attacks.

Ali called on the international community to urge the Myanmar government to immediately implement the recommendations of the commission’s report “in its entirety”.

Meanwhile, Rohingya militants in Myanmar, whose raids sparked an army crackdown that has seen nearly 300,000 Muslim Rohingya flee to Bangladesh, on Sunday declared a unilateral ceasefire but the government said it would not negotiate with “terrorists”.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya are believed to be on the move inside Rakhine after more than a fortnight without shelter, food and water.

“The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) hereby declares a temporary cessation of offensive military operations,” the militant group said in a statement on its Twitter account.

It urged “all humanitarian actors” to resume aid delivery to “all victims of humanitarian crisis irrespective of ethnic or religious background” during the one-month ceasefire until October 9.

International aid programmes in Rakhine have been severely curtailed over safety concerns due to the fighting.

In addition to Rohingya, some 27,000 ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Hindus have also fled violence in northern Rakhine.

ARSA called on Myanmar to “reciprocate this humanitarian pause” in fighting.

Myanmar, which has previously labelled ARSA as “terrorists”, appeared to reject the overture. “We have no policy to negotiate with terrorists,” Zaw Htay, a senior government spokesman, tweeted late Sunday.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s government has come in for strong international criticism over the military’s treatment of the Rohingya - including the alleged laying of mines along the border to prevent those who fled from returning.

Three Rohingya are reported to have been killed by a mine and others including children have been injured.

Rohingya refugees say army operations against ARSA led to mass killing of civilians and the burning of villages, sending them across the border.

The UN has appealed for urgent donations of $77 million. Bangladesh already hosts around 400,000 Rohingya from previous crises.

The Red Cross in Bangladesh welcomed the ceasefire pledge as aid agencies struggle to meet the needs of an “overwhelming crisis”.

“How can you handle such a big influx of people? They want shelter, they want a safe place,” Misada Saif, Prevention and Communication Coordinator of the ICRC Bangladesh delegation, told AFP.

Cradling her naked screaming infant, Rohingya refugee Zohra Begum was close to tears as several hundred people were ordered to leave a strip of forest alongside the beach near Shamlapur, where families were clearing land with hoes to build shelters.

“We went to all the camps but there was no place to stay. That’s why we came here,” she told AFP. “If we have to move from here, where will we go? We will die.”

Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh say ethnic Rakhine Buddhists joined Myanmar’s security forces in the indiscriminate killing of villagers.

But ethnic Rakhine villagers accuse militants of murdering civilians while the government says fleeing Rohingya set fire to their own homes to foment anger against the authorities.

AFP