20 Ro­hingya drown, 50 miss­ing

Otago Daily Times - - Weekend World -

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

An­to­nio Guter­res

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