The boats were full of women and children. The refugees were trying to reach Bangladesh. Thousands are blocked in No Man’s Land between Bangladesh and Myanmar. Myanmar does not want Muslims; Bangladesh rejects them. For Christian activist, people must “show generosity.”
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – The bodies of at least 19 people were pulled from the Teknaf River, at Cox's Bazar, on the south-eastern tip of Bangladesh, after their boats capsized.
The latter were carrying Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar following a week of fighting between Myanmar soldiers and the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA). Eight were women and 11 were children.
The boats were making their way to Bangladesh, said lieutenant colonel Ariful Islam, of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB). The dead were part of a wave of refugees trying to cross the border in the past few days.
The Rohingya are a Muslim group of Bengali origin but have lived for generations in Myanmar. However, the country’s authorities have refused to grant them any rights or citizenship.
Cox’s Bazar Deputy Commissioner and District Magistrate Mohammad Ali Hossain told journalists that “if no one comes to claim the bodies, they will be buried by the police in accordance to [established] funeral rites.”
Human rights activists claim that some 10,000 Rakhine residents have already abandoned their homes and more than 7,000 Rohingya have fled to the Bangladesh border.
In a report released yesterday, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said that up to 18,000 people have crossed the border since violence broke out.
International media report that about 4,000 Rohingya are stuck in the border area between Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has urged the public to show sensitivity towards the refugees. Yet, it is her government that has refused them entry.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Nirmol Rozario, president of the Bangladesh Christian Association (BC), condemned “the persecution of the Rohingya. We ask that the government and people show generosity.”
“We also condemn the killings,” he added. “The Myanmar government must solve the issue in a peaceful manner”.
According to Myanmar, ARSA fighters are “Bengali terrorists”.