(AsiaNews/Agencies) - Bangladesh turned away three big boats carrying about
1,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in the Myanmar state of Rakhine, scene
of sectarian violence between the Muslim minority and Buddhists. The attempt to
land was made yesterday but Bangladeshi authorities sent back the would-be
refugees. They did the same a few days ago with another 500. Meanwhile, soldiers
and police patrol the city of Sittwe in Myanmar where President Thein Sein
imposed a curfew to prevent sectarian clashes that have so far 23 claimed lives.
Local witnesses said that at present is relatively calm, but could reignite
[the boats] have been chased away," police official Jahangir Alam said by phone
on Saint Martin's, an island in the Bay of Bengal. "We are keeping our eyes
open so that nobody can enter Bangladesh illegally."
the authorities, using loudspeakers, called on islanders to be vigilant to
prevent Rohingya Muslims from entering the country.
Bangladesh stopped some 1,500 Muslim refugees from Myanmar; 500 of them were
found in 11 boats that were intercepted a few days ago off the Bangladeshi coast.
Myanmar, the authorities have deployed soldiers in the streets of Sittwe, the
capital of Rakhine State. Using loudspeakers, soldiers went street to street warning
residents that "zero tolerance" would be enforced on anyone found with weapons
or caught in the act of burning buildings.
far, state media have reported 21 deaths and an equal number of wounded as well
as almost 1,700 buildings set on fire.
apparent calm has come to the city but almost all stores are closed and few
people can be seen in the streets or in public places.
broke out in late May when a Buddhist woman was raped and killed. An angry
crowd blamed Muslims and attacked a bus carrying Muslim passengers, killing
the state capital of Rakhine, is under the control of security forces. As an
important trading hub, the city is the point of origin for oil and gas
pipelines being built by China National Petroleum Corp that stretch to Yunnan
its 135 or more ethnic groups, Myanmar has always had difficulties in having
them live together. In the past, the country's military junta used an iron fist
against the more rebellious of them.
constitute 4 per cent of Myanmar's 60 million people. Rohingya number 750,000
according to UN figures, mostly in Rakhine state. Another million or so are
divided between Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia.
state of emergency is the first exceptional measure taken by Thein Sein. Since he
became president more than a year ago, he has been trying to move the country
from a military dictatorship to limited democracy.