Ro­hingya still flee­ing Myan­mar

Richmond Times-Dispatch - - OP/ED -

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.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ro­hingyaMus­lims, who crossed fromMyan­mar, walk to­ward a refugee camp in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh.

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