The International Criminal Court's prosecutor has opened a preliminary probe into Myanmar's crimes against Rohingya Muslims, including killings, sexual violence and forced deportations.

The move is the first step towards a full investigation of Myanmar's military crackdown which has seen some 700,000 of the stateless minority people flee the northern Rakhine state into neighbouring Bangladesh.

It comes nearly two weeks after judges ruled that even though Myanmar has not signed up to the Hague-based ICC, the court still has jurisdiction over crimes against the Rohingya because Bangladesh is a member.

The ICC was set up in 2002 to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"I have decided to proceed to the next phase of the process and to carry out a full-fledged preliminary examination of the situation at hand," ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement.

A preliminary examination can lead to a formal investigation by the ICC and then possible indictments.

Ms Bensouda said the initial probe "may take into account a number of alleged coercive acts having resulted in the forced displacement of the Rohingya people, including deprivation of fundamental rights, killing, sexual violence, enforced disappearance, destruction and looting."

She would also consider whether other crimes would apply to the plight of the Rohingya "such as the crimes of persecution and other inhumane acts."