A total of 87,000 mostly Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since violence erupted in neighbouring Myanmar on August 25, the United Nations (UN) said Monday.
Thousands of the stateless Muslim minority have fled the mainly Buddhist nation and poured over the border since the latest round of fighting broke out, piling pressure on the already overcrowded camps in Bangladesh.
Around 20,000 more were massed on the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine and waiting to enter, the UN said in a report.
Dhaka stepped up border controls after the latest round of violence began 10 days ago. But in recent days Bangladeshi border guards appeared to be allowing the fleeing refugees to enter and the UN said recent arrivals reported there had been no attempt to prevent them from crossing.
Over the last five years Rakhine has been divided along ethnic and religious lines, but the current violence is the worst yet. Scores of people have drowned attempting to cross the Naf border river, many in makeshift boats.
Most of the new arrivals have crammed into camps near the border, where the UN said local people were helping the relief effort.
Rakhine has been a crucible of religious violence since 2012, when riots erupted. Scores of Rohingya were killed and tens of thousands of people — the majority from the Muslim minority — were forced into displacement camps.
The latest round of violence erupted when Rohingya militants attacked remote police posts, killing 15 officials and burning villages. Myanmar’s army chief has said nearly 400 people have died since then, including 370 Rohingya militants.
Myanmar security forces have launched “clearance” operations to sweep out insurgents whose ranks appear to be swelling as male Rohingya villagers join their cause.
Rights groups allege massacres of Rohingya in remote villages led by Myanmar police and troops and ethnic Rakhine Buddhist mobs. The Rohingya community numbering roughly one million is reviled in Myanmar.
They are seen as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh even though many have lived for generations in Myanmar.
Several hundred Muslim women demonstrated outside Myanmar’s embassy in the Indonesian capital on Monday in the third day of protests calling for the government to take a tougher stance against persecution of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority.
Dozens of armed police are guarding the embassy, which is cordoned behind barbed wire, after a petrol bomb was thrown at it on the weekend.
Protesters, organised by a group called Friends of Muslim Rohingya, shouted “Save Rohingya,” and held big banners that read, “Unite the people to free Rohingya Muslims” and “Stop Muslim genocide in Myanmar!”
Human Rights Watch says satellite imagery shows 700 buildings were burned in the Rohingya Muslim village of Chein Khar Li, just one of 17 locations in Rakhine state where the rights group has documented burning of property.
Indonesian Muslims protested against Myanmar’s government in Jakarta on the weekend, setting fire to a picture of Suu Kyi and further protests are set for this week. Local media reported that one group plans to stage a protest at Borobudur, a famous ancient Buddhist temple in central Java.
“The world remains silent in the face of the massacre of Rohingya Muslims,” said Farida, an organiser of Monday’s protest who uses a single name.
“They have been tortured and killed like animals by Buddhists in Myanmar,” she told the crowd outside the embassy. “We demand the government puts pressure on the Buddhist government of Myanmar. We demand mobilisation of our military to rescue the Rohingya,” she said.
Indonesia’s president has called for an end to violence in Rakhine state and sent his foreign minister to discuss the plight of Rohingya Muslims with Suu Kyi.—AFP