Thousands of Rohingya flee to Bangladesh
No end in sight for violence in Rakhine
At least 18,500 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh since fighting erupted in Myanmar’s neighboring Rakhine state six days ago, the International Organization for Migration said Wednesday.
Plumes of smoke billowed from several burning villages in the worst- hit section of the state, according to an AFP reporter on a government- led trip to the area, as the violence showed little sign of abating despite security sweeps by Myanmar’s police and troops.
The streets of Maungdaw – northern Rakhine’s largest town – were virtually deserted as fires flickered among charred remains of houses and the occasional burst of gunfire echoed in the distance.
The clashes began on Friday after militants from Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority community staged deadly surprise raids on police posts.
At least 110 people, includ- ing 11 state officials, have been confirmed dead and thousands of Rohingya have poured across the border to Bangladesh.
“As of last night, 18,500 people have come across,” Chris Lom, the IOM’s Asia- Pacific spokesman, told AFP, adding an unknown number were still stuck on the Myanmar side of the border.
An estimated 6,000 Rohingya on Tuesday massed at the “zero line” border with Bangladesh, days after the area came under mortar and machine gun fire by Myanmar security forces.
The Rohingya, the world’s largest stateless minority and subject to severe restrictions on their movements, are barred from officially crossing.
Bangladeshi authorities on Wednesday toughened patrols in a bid to prevent more arrivals in a country that already hosts an estimated 400,000 Rohingya, albeit in abject conditions.
Rohingya have sneaked across the land border in large number or swum the Naf River which marks part of the frontier
But tragedy befell some of them. The bodies of two Rohingya women and two children washed up on Bangladeshi soil on Wednesday, an official there told AFP, drowned after their rickety boat capsized.
Among the dead and displaced are also ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and other tribal groups, who say they are being targeted by Rohingya militants.
Five ethnic Buddhist men were found stabbed to death early Wednesday in Maungdaw, which is under curfew, Ye Htut, the town’s district chief told AFP.