Rohingya exodus: man carries mother for eight days
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.