Bangladesh border guards send back boats full of Muslim women and children fleeing Myanmar army violence. The death toll in Rakhine State reaches 90 deaths and 30,000 displaced people. Myanmar and UN clash.
Naypyiadaw (AsiaNews) – The situation of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims is getting worse. In the past two months, Myanmar soldiers have been driving them towards the border with Bangladesh, where thousands are seeking refuge.
In the last two weeks, Bangladeshi border guards have prevented more than 1,000 Rohingya, including many women and children, from entering the country by boat, officials said. Boats full of refugees have also been forced back to Myanmar territorial waters.
Clashes between Myanmar soldiers and what the authorities call Rohingya Muslim militants have occurred in the past few weeks in the south-western state of Rakhine.
The Rohingya are a Muslim minority (just over a million) originally from Bangladesh living in refugee camps in several parts of the Myanmar where they have been denied citizenship.
As a result of the violence, at least 90 people have died and about 30,000 have been displaced since the beginning of October.
At present, soldiers continue to go from village to village clearing the area of rebel elements. Appeals for peace by Card Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon, have fallen on deaf ears.
Bangladesh’s main opposition leader Khaleda Zia joined other political parties and Muslim groups calling for the Rohingya to be given shelter.
Some displaced people managed to reach an unofficial refugee camp in Bangladesh. At least 1,338 have arrived in the community since mid-October. Samira Akhter is one of them.
“The military killed my husband and torched our home. I fled to a hill along with my three children and neighbours. We hid there for a week,” she said.
Meanwhile, Myanmar and the United Nations are at loggerheads. Last Thursday (24 November), John McKissick, head of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) on the Bangladeshi border, accused Myanmar of conducting a genocide campaign on stateless Rohingya Muslims.
Specifically, he accused Myanmar army soldiers and border police of killing villagers, raping women and girls, and burning down homes in Rohingya communities for no reason.
“Now it’s very difficult for the Bangladeshi government to say the border is open because this would further encourage the government of Myanmar to continue the atrocities and push them out until they have achieved their ultimate goal of ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority in Myanmar,” McKissick said.
Htin Linn, Myanmar’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva, Switzerland, lodged a protest against John McKissick.
At the same time, a statement was posted on Sunday on the Facebook page of Myanmar’s State Counsellor’s Office Aung San Suu Kyi.
“If such allegations were indeed made by the UNHCR,” the post said, “then Myanmar lodges strong objection against the UNHCR for unjust allegations made without substantiating evidence [against] the Myanmar government”.
Suu Kyi, who is Myanmar’s de facto leader, had to delay a three-day visit to Indonesia because of protests in the Muslim majority country against Myanmar’s repression against the Rohingya.