Rohingya still fleeing Myanmar
COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh— Nearly three weeks into a mass exodus of Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar, thousands were still flooding across the border Thursday in search of help and safety in teeming refugee settlements in Bangladesh.
The crisis has drawn global condemnation, with U.N. officials demanding Myanmar halt what they described as a campaign of ethnic cleansing that has driven nearly 400,000 Rohingya to flee Rakhine state.
One of the dozens of boats carrying Rohingya to the Bangladeshi border town of Teknaf capsized Thursday and at least two people drowned, police said. That brought known drownings in the Naf River to 88 since the crisis began.
Those who arrived Wednesday in wooden boats on beaches near the Shah Porir Dwip fishing village described ongoing violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where smoke could be seen billowing from a burning village — suggesting more Rohingya homes had been set alight.
One Rohingya man said his village of Rashidong had been attacked six days earlier by Myanmar soldiers and police.
“When military and police surrounded our village and attacked us with rocket launchers to set fire, we got away from our village and fled away to any direction we could manage,” Abdul Goffar said.
Myanmar presidential office spokesman Zaw Htay said that out of 471 “Bengali” villages in three Rakhine townships, 176 were now completely empty, while at least 34 were partially abandoned. Many in Myanmar use that term as part of a longstanding refusal to accept Rohingya as citizens of the country.
Myanmar has accused the Rohingya of burning their own homes and villages — a claim the U.N. human rights chief criticized as a “complete denial of reality.”
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Thursday that 10,000 people reportedly crossed the border in the last 24 hours.
Combined with the Rohingyas who fled during the last round of violence in Rakhine state last Oc- tober, Dujarric said, “It’s estimated that some 40 percent of the total Rohingya population have now fled into Bangladesh.”
An estimated 60 percent of the Rohingyas arriving in Bangladesh are children, Dujarric said.
The crisis and refugee exodus began on Aug. 25, when Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts. Myanmar’s military retaliated with “clearance operations” to root out the rebels, but the fleeing Ro- hingya say Myanmar soldiers shot indiscriminately, burned their homes and warned them to leave or die. Others have said they were attacked by Buddhist mobs. Hundreds have died, mostly Rohingya.
Facing global condemnation, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi will not attend U.N. General Assembly meetings Sept. 19-25.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said ethnic cleansing was taking place against Rohingya in Rakhine state. The term “ethnic cleansing” is defined as an effort to rid an area of an ethnic group— by displacement, deportation or even killing.
Amnesty International said it has evidence of an “orchestrated campaign of systematic burnings” by Myanmar forces targeting Rohingya villages.
RohingyaMuslims, who crossed fromMyanmar, walk toward a refugee camp in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh.