Full horror of Rohingya flight revealed

Full horror of Rohingya flight revealed
By Catherine Hardy with REUTERS
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Official figures suggest more than 18,000 Muslims have fled the worst violence to grip northwest Myanmar in at least five years.


Official figures suggest more than 18,000 Muslims have fled the worst violence to grip northwest Myanmar in at least five years.

The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimates around 18,445 Rohingya – mainly women and children – have registered in Bangladesh.

Thousands more are stuck at the Bangladesh border or are scrambling to reach it.

At least 4,000 people are thought to be stranded in no man’s land between the two countries, with temporary shelters stretching for several hundred metres on a narrow strip between the Naf river and Myanmar’s border fence.

“People are traumatised” – the IOM

“They are in very, very desperate condition,” said Sanjukta Sahany, who runs the IOM office in near the border.

“The biggest needs are food, health services and they need shelter. They need at least some cover, some rooves over their heads.”

Sahany added that many are crossing “with bullet injuries and burn injuries,” and that aid workers reported that some refugees “gave a blank look” when questioned.

“People are traumatised, which is quite visible.”

What has triggered the exodus?

A series of attacks last Friday by Rohingya insurgents on security forces in the north of Myanmar’s Rakhine state and ensuing clashes.

The government has evacuated thousands of Rakhine Buddhists from the area.

At least 109 people have been killed in the clashes with insurgents, Myanmar says, most of them militants but also members of the security forces and civilians.

What is Bangladesh saying?

Dhaka has asked the UN to pressure Myanmar over its treatment of the Muslim majority, saying it cannot take any more.

The country is already host to more than 400,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled Buddhist-majority Myanmar since the early 1990s.


Police in Kuala Lumpur say they arrested around 155 of an estimated 1,200 mostly Rohingya demonstrators who protested against the renewed violence.

Tens of thousands of Rohingya have fled to Malaysia over the years, few with valid travel or identity papers.

Has the UN said anything?

Yes. The United Nations, while condemning the militant attacks, has pressured Myanmar to protect civilian lives without discrimination and appealed to Bangladesh to admit those fleeing the military counter-offensive.

Is this a new development?

No. The violence marks a dramatic escalation of a conflict that has simmered since October.

Back then, a similar but much smaller series of Rohingya attacks on security posts prompted a fierce military response in which the UN has said security forces probably committed crimes against humanity.


What is the Myanmar government saying?

That the country has the right to defend itself from attack and that security personnal are told to keep innocent civilians from harm.

The government says mine explosions and fighting are continuing, blaming Rohingya militants for burning down houses and fleeing to the mountains after the attacks.

The plight of around 1.1 million Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar is the biggest challenge facing national leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

She has been accused by Western critics of not speaking out for a minority that has long complained of persecution.

The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar and regarded as illegal immigrants, despite claiming roots that date back centuries.

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