Boat cap­sizes in bay: 60 feared drowned

The Jakarta Post - - SPORTS - Tommy Wilkes and Michelle Ni­chols REUTERS/COX’S BAZAR/UN

Num­ber of Ro­hingya seek­ing refuge in Bangladesh now ex­ceeds half a mil­lion UN sec­re­tary-gen­eral con­sid­er­ing in­vi­ta­tion from Myan­mar govt to visit coun­try

More than 60 Ro­hingya refugees from Myan­mar are feared to have drowned af­ter their boat cap­sized, with 20 con­firmed dead, Bangladesh po­lice said on Fri­day, as a new surge in the num­bers flee­ing a Myan­mar mil­i­tary cam­paign took the to­tal to more than half a mil­lion.

The refugees drowned in heavy seas off Bangladesh late on Thurs­day while, in New York, United States Am­bas­sador to the United Na­tions Nikki Ha­ley called on coun­tries to sus­pend pro­vid­ing weapons to Myan­mar over vi­o­lence against Ro­hingya. It was the first time the US had called for pun­ish­ment of Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary, but she stopped short of threat­en­ing to reim­pose US sanc­tions that were sus­pended un­der the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. Bud­dhist-ma­jor­ity Myan­mar re­jects ac­cu­sa­tions of eth­nic cleans­ing and crimes against hu­man­ity.

Refugees ar­riv­ing in Myan­mar have told of at­tacks and ar­son by the mil­i­tary and Bud­dhist vig­i­lantes aimed at driv­ing Ro­hingya out.

Bangladeshi bor­der of­fi­cials said more refugees had ar­rived over the past day or two af­ter the num­ber seemed to be tail­ing off. Aid groups said 502,000 refugees had ar­rived since late Au­gust.

“It stopped for a while but they have started com­ing again,” Colonel Anisul Haque, head of the Bangladeshi bor­der guards in the town of Tek­naf, told Reuters, adding that about 1,000 peo­ple had landed at the main ar­rival point on the coast on Thurs­day.

The refugee boat that cap­sized went over in driv­ing wind and rain and high seas. Po­lice said 20 bod­ies had been re­cov­ered, 12 of them chil­dren, while 27 peo­ple sur­vived and more than 50 were miss­ing.

Sur­vivor, Ab­dul Kalam, 55, said at least 100 peo­ple had been on board. His wife, two daugh­ters and a grand­son were among the dead, he said.

Kalam said armed Bud­dhists had come to his vil­lage about a week ago and taken away live­stock and food. He said vil­lagers had been sum­moned to a mil­i­tary of­fice and told there were no such peo­ple as Ro­hingya in Myan­mar. Af­ter that his fam­ily de­cided to leave and head to the coast.

Ha­ley echoed UN ac­cu­sa­tions that the dis­place­ment of hun­dreds of thou­sands of peo­ple in Rakhine was eth­nic cleans­ing.

“We can­not be afraid to call the ac­tions of the Burmese au­thor­i­ties what they ap­pear to be — a bru­tal, sus­tained cam­paign to cleanse the coun­try of an eth­nic mi­nor­ity,” Ha­ley told the UN Se­cu­rity Coun­cil.

The mil­i­tary cam­paign against the Ro­hingya in­sur­gents is well sup­ported in­side Myan­mar, where Bud­dhist na­tion­al­ism has surged over the past few years.

Ha­ley said the mil­i­tary must re­spect hu­man rights and fun­da­men­tal free­doms.

“Those who have been ac­cused of com­mit­ting abuses should be re­moved from com­mand re­spon­si­bil­i­ties im­me­di­ately and pros­e­cuted for wrong­do­ing,” she said.

“And any coun­try that is cur­rently pro­vid­ing weapons to the Burmese mil­i­tary should sus­pend these ac­tiv­i­ties un­til suf­fi­cient ac­count­abil­ity mea­sures are in place,” Ha­ley said.

Myan­mar na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Thaung Tun said at the UN there was no eth­nic cleans­ing or geno­cide in Myan­mar.

He told the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil that Myan­mar had in­vited Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res to visit. A UN of­fi­cial said the sec­re­tary-gen­eral would con­sider vis­it­ing un­der the right con­di­tions.

China and Rus­sia both ex­pressed sup­port for the Myan­mar gov­ern­ment. Myan­mar said this month it was ne­go­ti­at­ing with China and Rus­sia, which have veto pow­ers in the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, to pro­tect it from any pos­si­ble ac­tion by the coun­cil.

Reuters/Damir Sagolj

Un­speak­able grief: Lalu Miya cries over the bod­ies of his wife and three of his chil­dren, who died af­ter a boat over­loaded with Ro­hingya refugees cap­sized while flee­ing Myan­mar, be­fore their fu­neral near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, on Fri­day. Two other of his chil­dren re­main miss­ing.

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