UN reports ‘alarming’ rise in Rohingya refugee numbers
DHAKA An estimated 270,000 Rohingya Muslims have sought refuge in Bangladesh over the past two weeks, the United Nations refugee agency says, a dramatic jump in the numbers fleeing violence in neighbouring Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said the estimated number of Rohingya who had fled to Bangladesh since violence erupted in Myanmar on August 25 had risen from 164,000 on Thursday, after aid workers found big groups in border areas.
‘‘The numbers are so alarming – it really means that we have to step up our response and that the situation in Myanmar has to be addressed urgently,’’ said Vivian Tan, a spokeswoman for UNHCR.
The wave of refugees, many of them sick or wounded, has strained the resources of aid agencies and communities already helping hundreds of thousands displaced by previous waves of violence in Myanmar. Many have no shelter, and aid agencies are racing to provide clean water, sanitation and food.
‘‘We need to prepare for many more to come, I am afraid,’’ said Shinni Kubo, Bangladesh country manager for UNHCR.
Critics have accused Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi of not speaking out for the Rohingya, and some have called for the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 1991 as a champion of democracy to be revoked.
She has been condemned by GETTY IMAGES fellow Nobel peace laureates. Archbishop Desmond Tutu yesterday called on her to speak out against the ‘‘unfolding horror’’ and ‘‘ethnic cleansing’’, warning: ‘‘If the political price of your ascension to the highest office is your silence, the price is surely too steep.’’ Reuters, The Times
Rohingya refugee Hussein Ahmed stands by the bed of his son Mohammad Touha, 16, who was shot in the neck by Myanmar soldiers as he fled his village, at a hospital in Chittagong, Bangladesh.