18,000 Ro­hingya flee vi­o­lence in Myan­mar into Bangladesh

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh — (AP) — At least 18,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims have fled fresh vi­o­lence in Myan­mar and crossed into Bangladesh in less than a week, with hun­dreds stranded in no man’s land at the coun­tries’ bor­der, the In­ter­na­tional Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Mi­gra­tion said Wed­nes­day.

San­jukta Sa­hany, a spokeSwoman for the or­ga­ni­za­tion in Cox’s Bazar, on the Bangladesh bor­der with Myan­mar, re­leased the lat­est fig­ures as hu­man rights groups and ad­vo­cates for the Ro­hingya say the Myan­mar army was re­tal­i­at­ing for at­tacks last week by Ro­hingya mil­i­tants by burn­ing down vil­lages and shoot­ing civil­ians.

The Myan­mar gov­ern­ment blames Ro­hingya in­sur­gents for the vi­o­lence, in­clud­ing the ar­son. Gov­ern­ment fig­ures put the death toll since last week at a min­i­mum of 103, in­clud­ing 12 mem­bers of se­cu­rity forces, 77 per­sons de­scribed as in­sur­gents and 14 civil­ians.

Ro­hingya ad­vo­cates fear hun­dreds of civil­ians may have been killed in army raids.

A re­port is­sued Wed­nes­day by Myan­mar’s In­for­ma­tion Min­istry said that 45 im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices were det­o­nated and seven vil­lages, one se­cu­rity post and two neigh­bor­hoods in the town­ship of Maungdaw burned down on Sun­day and Mon­day.

Maungdaw, in the north­ern part of Rakhine state, is a cen­ter for the vi­o­lence, though vil­lages over a much wider area were also hit.

A ma­jor­ity of Myan­mar’s es­ti­mated 1 mil­lion Ro­hingya live in north­ern Rakhine, where they have faced per­se­cu­tion in the Bud­dhist- ma­jor­ity coun­try that re­fuses to rec­og­nize them as a le­git­i­mate na­tive eth­nic mi­nor­ity, leav­ing them with­out cit­i­zen­ship and ba­sic rights.

Sa­hany said the Ro­hingya cri­sis was not an is­sue be­tween Myan­mar and Bangladesh but of in­ter­na­tional con­cern.

Ali Hos­sain, Cox’s Bazar district’s top gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial, told The As­so­ci­ated Press that their re­sources were un­der huge stress af­ter some 87,000 Ro­hingya en­tered Bangladesh since Oc­to­ber last year and an­other 18,000 since last Fri­day.

“I have al­ready in­formed the gov­ern­ment’s high-ups about the trou­ble we are fac- ing here,” he said. “This is a very com­plex sit­u­a­tion.”

The U.N. refugee or­ga­ni­za­tion on Tuesday urged Bangladesh to con­tinue to al­low Ro­hingya flee­ing vi­o­lence to seek safety. It said it was ready to help Bangladesh with as­sis­tance for the refugees.

Bangladesh’s Prime Min­is­ter Sheikh Hasina on Wed­nes­day re­quested the United States to put pres­sure on Myan­mar so that its gov­ern­ment stops push­ing Ro­hingya to­ward Bangladesh, said her spokesman.

Hasina made the re­quest dur­ing talks with Alice Wells, U.S. act­ing as­sis­tant sec­re­tary of state for south and cen­tral Asia, said Ih­sanul Karim, Hasina’s press sec­re­tary.

In an­other devel­op­ment, po­lice said a boat car­ry­ing an un­known num­ber of Ro­hingya cap­sized in the Naf River, leav­ing at least four dead. The boat was try­ing to en­ter Bangladesh through Shah Porir Is­land in the Bay of Ben­gal when it sank, said po­lice of­fi­cial Main Ud­din.

He said they re­cov­ered four bod­ies and “most prob­a­bly” many oth­ers were miss­ing.

“Our search is on. We don’t know how many were on the boat,” he said.

Also Wed­nes­day, Bangladesh’s bor­der guards turned back 171 Ro­hingya af­ter de­tain­ing them at dif­fer­ent bor­der points over the last two days, said Col. S.M. Ari­ful Is­lam, a director of the Bor­der Guard Bangladesh.

He said that bor­der guards pro­vided them with food and medicine be­fore push­ing them back, but it was not clear what hap­pened to them later.

The in­sur­gent raids last Thurs­day night were dead­lier than an at­tack by the mil­i­tants on three bor­der posts last Oc­to­ber that killed nine po­lice­men and set off months of bru­tal coun­terin­sur­gency op­er­a­tions against Ro­hingya com­mu­ni­ties. Hu­man rights groups ac­cused the army of car­ry­ing out mas­sive abuses, in­clud­ing killing, rape and burn­ing down more than 1,000 homes and other build­ings.

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