Bangladesh PM seeks help for Ro­hingya cri­sis as ex­o­dus tops 400,000

WHO, UN chil­dren’s agency launched vac­ci­na­tion cam­paign against measles, rubella and po­lio


DHAKA: Bangladesh Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina headed for the UN Gen­eral Assem­bly on Saturday to plead for global help cop­ing with the Ro­hingya cri­sis, as the refugee del­uge es­cap­ing a crack­down in Myan­mar topped 400,000.

The prime min­is­ter left a day af­ter her govern­ment sum­moned the Myan­mar en­voy for the third time to protest over its neigh­bor’s ac­tions. Hasina is to de­mand more pres­sure on Myan­mar dur­ing talks in New York.

Bangladesh has been over­whelmed by Ro­hingya Mus­lims since vi­o­lence erupted in Bud­dhist-dom­i­nated Myan­mar’s Rakhine state on Aug. 25.

The UN said Saturday that the to­tal num­ber of peo­ple to have en­tered Bangladesh hav­ing fled the un­rest had now reached 409,000, a leap of 18,000 in a day.

Con­di­tions are wors­en­ing in the bor­der town of Cox’s Bazar where the in­flux has added to pres­sures on Ro­hingya camps al­ready over­whelmed with 300,000 peo­ple from ear­lier waves of refugees. The UN said two chil­dren and a woman were killed in a “ram­page” when a pri­vate group handed out clothes near a camp on Friday.

Hasina is to speak at the UN on Thurs­day.

“She will seek im­me­di­ate ces­sa­tion of vi­o­lence in Rakhine state in Myan­mar and ask the UN sec­re­tary-gen­eral to send a fact-find­ing mis­sion to Rakhine,” a spokesman for the prime min­is­ter, Nazrul Is­lam, told AFP.

“She will also call the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity and the UN to put pres­sure on Myan­mar for the repa­tri­a­tion of all the Ro­hingya refugees to their home­land in Myan­mar,” he said.

For­eign Min­is­ter A.H. Mah­mood Ali said: “We will con­tinue in­ter­na­tional pres­sure on the Myan­mar govern­ment to im­me­di­ately end its on­go­ing eth­nic cleans­ing of the Ro­hingya.”

As ten­sions mount be­tween the neigh­bors, the For­eign Min­istry on Friday sum­moned the Myan­mar charge d’af­faires in Dhaka to protest at al­leged vi­o­la­tions of its airspace by Myan­mar drones and he­li­copter.

The min­istry warned that the three vi­o­la­tions be­tween Sept. 10 and 14 could lead to “un­war­ranted con­se­quences.” Myan­mar did not im­me­di­ately com­ment. The Bangladesh govern­ment ear­lier protested to the em­bassy over the plant­ing of land mines near their bor­der, which have killed sev­eral Ro­hingya, and the treat­ment of the refugees.

UN leader An­to­nio Guter­res has also said Myan­mar’s treat­ment of the Ro­hingya could amount to eth­nic cleans­ing.

The deaths of the three refugees backed warn­ings by UN agen­cies and other re­lief groups that the cri­sis could get out of con­trol.

The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion (WHO) and UN chil­dren’s agency on Saturday launched vac­ci­na­tion cam­paigns against measles, rubella and po­lio. They es­ti­mate that 60 per­cent of the new ar­rivals are chil­dren.

Most Ro­hingya, who spent more than a week trekking cross-coun­try from Rakhine to reach the Bangladesh bor­der, have found ex­ist­ing camps over­flow­ing and have in­stead set­tled on muddy road­sides.

Many fam­i­lies do not have a shel­ter over their heads and refugees have been fight­ing for food and wa­ter de­liv­er­ies.

“The needs are seem­ingly end­less and the suf­fer­ing is deep­en­ing,” said UNICEF spokes­woman Mar­ixie Mer­cado.

Out­side the gi­ant Balukali camp, Jamila Khatun, 60, sat un­der a blue plas­tic bin bag held up by bam­boo poles with her chil­dren and grand­chil­dren as she re­counted her jour­ney to Bangladesh.

She said she handed over her jew­elry to a Bangladesh boat­man two days ago to get across the river fron­tier from Myan­mar.

“We walked by night for three or four days to avoid the mil­i­tary and then came over by boat.

A Ro­hingya refugee boy looks on as he stands in his makeshift tent in Cox’s Bazar on Saturday. (Reuters)

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