Bor­der ten­sions rise along with flow of refugees

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - WORLD - By Jul­has Alam Jul­has Alam is an Associated Press writer.

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh — Au­thor­i­ties sum­moned Myan­mar’s en­voy to protest what they said were vi­o­la­tions of its airspace as the num­ber of Ro­hingya Mus­lims flee­ing vi­o­lence in western Myan­mar in the past three weeks reached more than 400,000.

Myan­mar’s pres­i­den­tial spokesman said Saturday there’s no ev­i­dence of any tres­pass­ing and that Dhaka should have reached out to dis­cuss its con­cerns in­stead of is­su­ing pub­lic state­ments.

The Bangladesh Min­istry of For­eign Af­fairs said Myan­mar drones and he­li­copters flew into Bangladeshi airspace last Sun­day, Tues­day and Thurs­day. It said a protest note was handed to Myan­mar’s en­voy Fri­day evening. Bangladesh warned that the “provoca­tive acts” could lead to con­se­quences.

In Yan­gon, pres­i­den­tial spokesman Zaw Htay said that while Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary de­nied cross­ing into Bangladesh’s airspace, the mat­ter was be­ing in­ves­ti­gated. “We don’t know ex­actly if they re­leased that state­ment for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons,” he said of Bangladesh’s protest.

He added that Myan­mar was “trans­port­ing ra­tions for dis­placed peo­ple for emer­gency as­sis­tance” to ar­eas close to the bor­der and that Bangladesh “needs to un­der­stand that as well.”

U.N. agen­cies say an es­ti­mated 409,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims have fled to Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when deadly at­tacks by a Ro­hingya in­sur­gent group on po­lice posts prompted Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary to launch “clear­ance oper­a­tions” in Rakhine state. Those flee­ing have de­scribed in­dis­crim­i­nate at­tacks by se­cu­rity forces and Bud­dhist mobs.

The Myan­mar gov­ern­ment says hun­dreds have died, mostly Ro­hingya “ter­ror­ists,” and that 176 out of 471 Ro­hingya vil­lages have been aban­doned. Myan­mar has in­sisted that Ro­hingya in­sur­gents and flee­ing vil­lagers them­selves are de­stroy­ing their vil­lages. It has of­fered no proof to back these charges.

The U.N. has de­scribed the vi­o­lence against the Ro­hingya in Myan­mar as eth­nic cleans­ing — a term that de­scribes an or­ga­nized ef­fort to rid an area of an eth­nic group by dis­place­ment, de­por­ta­tion or killing.

Eth­nic Ro­hingya have faced per­se­cu­tion and dis­crim­i­na­tion in ma­jor­ity-Bud­dhist Myan­mar for decades and are de­nied cit­i­zen­ship, even though many fam­i­lies have lived there for gen­er­a­tions. The gov­ern­ment says there is no such eth­nic­ity as Ro­hingya and say they are Ben­galis who il­le­gally mi­grated to Myan­mar from Bangladesh.

Dar Yasin / Associated Press

Ab­dul Ka­reem, a Ro­hingya Mus­lim, car­ries his mother, Alima Kha­toon, to­ward a refugee camp af­ter cross­ing from Myan­mar to Tek­naf, Bangladesh. More than 400,000 Ro­hingyas have fled.

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