Tragedy as 400,000 flee attacks
■ 400,000 have fled ‘ethnic cleansing’ in Myanmar
A Rohingya Muslim woman holds an infant who died when the boat they were travelling in capsized just before reaching the shore of the Bay of Bengal, in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh. Some 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in the past weeks since Myanmar’s security forces launched an operation that critics have branded ‘ethnic cleansing’. The United Nations has appealed for aid amid a growing humanitarian crisis.
The United Nations has appealed for massive help for 400,000 Muslims from Myanmar who have fled to Bangladesh. The fear is that the number will keep rising, unless Myanmar ends what critics denounce as “ethnic-cleansing”.
The Rohingya are fleeing from a Myanmar military offensive in the western state of Rakhine. It was triggered by a series of guerrilla attacks on August 25, on security posts and an army camp, when a dozen people were killed.
The United Nations has called for a massive intensification of relief operations to help the refugees, and a much bigger response from the international community.
“We urge the international community to step up humanitarian support and come up with help,” Mohammed Abdiker, director of operations and emergencies for the International Organisation for Migration, told a news conference in the Bangladeshi capital. The need was “massive”, he added.
The violence in Rakhine and the exodus of refugees are the most pressing problems Nobel Peace laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi, has faced since becoming national leader, last year.
UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and the UN Security Council, urged Myanmar to end the violence, which he said was ethnic cleansing.
The government of Buddhist-majority Myanmar rejects such accusations, saying it is targetting “terrorists”.
Numerous Rohingya villages in the north of Rakhine have been torched, but authorities have denied that security forces or Buddhist civilians set the fires. They blame the insurgents, and say 30,000 non-Muslim villagers were also displaced.
Smoke was rising from at least five places on the Myanmar side of the border, yesterday. It was not clear what was burning or who set the fires.
“Ethnic-cleansing” is not recognised as an independent crime under international law, the UN Office on Genocide Prevention says, but it has been used in UN resolutions and acknowledged in judgments and indictments of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
A UN panel of experts defined it as “rendering an area ethnically homogeneous, by using force or intimidation to remove persons of given groups”.
The crisis has raised questions about Suu Kyi’s commitment to human rights, and could strain relations with Western backers of her leadership of Myanmar’s transition from decades of strict military rule and economic isolation.
Critics have called for her to be stripped of her Nobel prize, for failing to do more to halt the strife, though national security remains firmly in the hands of the military. Suu Kyi is to address the nation on Tuesday.
China, which competes with the United States for influence in Myanmar, endorses the offensive against the insurgents and deemed it an “internal affair”, Myanmar state media said.
“The counterattacks of Myanmar security forces against extremist terrorists, and the government’s undertakings to provide assistance to the people, are strongly welcomed,” the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper quoted China’s ambassador, Hong Liang.
Rohingya Muslim refugees disembark from a boat on the Bangladeshi side of Naf river in Teknaf, Bangladesh, after fleeing Myanmar.
Rohingya Muslims walk to the shore after arriving on a boat from Myanmar to Bangladesh in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh, yesterday.
A Rohingya Muslim man walks to shore carrying two children after they arrived on a boat from Myanmar to Bangladesh in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh, yesterday.
A woman lies unconscious on the shore of Bay of Bangal after the boat she was travelling in capsized at Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh.
A Rohingya refugee carries a child from the boat.