Ro­hingya ex­o­dus: man car­ries mother for eight days

The Witness - - NEWS -

COX’S BAZAR (Bangladesh) — Thou­sands of Ro­hingya Mus­lims from Myan­mar fled to Bangladesh yes­ter­day in a new surge of refugees driven by fears of star­va­tion and vi­o­lence that the United Na­tions has de­nounced as eth­nic cleans­ing.

Reuters re­porters on the Bangladeshi side of the bor­der in Pa­long Khali dis­trict saw sev­eral thou­sand peo­ple cross­ing from Myan­mar’s Rakhine state, fil­ing along em­bank­ments be­tween flooded fields and scrubby for­est.

“Half of my vil­lage was burnt down. I saw them do it,” said Sayed Azin (46), who said he had walked for eight days car­ry­ing his 80­year­old mother in a bas­ket strung on a bam­boo pole be­tween him and his son.

Sol­diers and Bud­dhist mobs had torched his vil­lage, he said.

“I left ev­ery­thing,” he said, sob­bing. “I can’t find my rel­a­tives ... I can’t take this any more.”

About 519 000 Ro­hingya have fled Myan­mar since Au­gust 25, when at­tacks by Ro­hingya mil­i­tants on se­cu­rity posts in Rakhine sparked a fe­ro­cious mil­i­tary re­sponse. Refugees and rights groups say the army and Bud­dhist vig­i­lantes have en­gaged in a cam­paign of killing and ar­son aimed at driv­ing the Ro­hingya out of Myan­mar.

Myan­mar re­jects ac­cu­sa­tions of eth­nic cleans­ing and has la­belled the mil­i­tants from the Arakan Ro­hingya Sal­va­tion Army who launched the ini­tial at­tacks as ter­ror­ists who have killed civil­ians and burnt vil­lages.

Among those flee­ing were up to 35 peo­ple on a boat that cap­sized off the Bangladesh coast on Sun­day. At least 12 of them drowned while 13 were res­cued, Bangladeshi police said.

“We faced so many dif­fi­cul­ties, for food and sur­vival,” Sayed Hos­sein (30) told Reuters, adding that his wife, three chil­dren, mother and fa­ther in law had drowned.

The gov­ern­ment cited wor­ries about food and se­cu­rity as their rea­sons for flee­ing. Some vil­lagers in Rakhine said food was run­ning out be­cause rice in the fields was not ready for har­vest and the state gov­ern­ment had closed vil­lage mar­kets and re­stricted the trans­port of food, ap­par­ently to cut sup­plies to the mil­i­tants.

“The sit­u­a­tion’s get­ting worse. We have no food and no guar­an­tee of se­cu­rity,” said a Ro­hingya res­i­dent of Hsin Hnin Pyar vil­lage on the south of the state’s Buthi­daung dis­trict.

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