20 Rohingya drown, 50 missing
COX’S BAZAR/NEW YORK: More than 50 Rohingya refugees from Myanmar were missing after their boat capsized, with 20 confirmed dead, Bangladesh police said yesterday, 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.
Meanwhile in New York, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley called on countries to suspend weapons supplies to Myanmar over violence against Rohingya Muslims.
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 which were suspended under the Obama administration.
Buddhistmajority Myanmar rejects accusations of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity and has denounced rights abuses.
Its military launched a sweeping offensive in response to coordinated attacks on the security forces by Rohingya insurgents in the north of Rakhine State on August 25.
Refugees arriving in Myanmar have told of attacks and arson by the military and Buddhist vigilantes aimed at driving Rohingya out.
UN Secretarygeneral Antonio Guterres told the Security Council the violence had spiralled into the ‘‘world’s fastest developing refugee emergency, a humanitarian and human rights nightmare’’.
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 in Bangladesh 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, said, adding that about 1000 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.
In a sharp ramping up of the pressure on Myanmar, Haley echoed UN accusations that the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people in Rakhine State 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 US had earlier said the army response to the insurgent attacks was ‘‘disproportionate’’ and the crisis raised questions about Myanmar’s transition to democracy, under the leadership of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, after decades of military rule.
Myanmar national security adviser Thaung Tun said at the UN there was no ethnic cleansing or genocide in Myanmar.
He told the Security Council Myanmar had invited Guterres to visit. A UN official said the Secretarygeneral would consider visiting under the right conditions. — Reuters