Saturday, 23 September 2017

Rohingya women, children drown while fleeing Myanmar violence

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LONDON: Dozens of Rohingya women and children desperate to flee the violence in Myanmar are drowning while attempting to escape to Bangladesh by boat.

A Bangladeshi border guard, who asked not to be identified, told, guards had retrieved eight bodies on the Bangladeshi side of the Naf River on Wednesday alone, half of whom were children.

“It was a case of a boat capsizing,” he said. ” (But) this has been happening from day one … Since then, around 60 to 65 bodies have arrived south (of the border area.) In other areas, maybe 10 to 15.”

“No-one comes to collect these bodies. These people are so distressed, they are walking, coming across fields for five days, they hardly recognize their own relatives,” he said.

At least 164,000 refugees have fled their homes in Rakhine State in western Myanmar since August 25, to escape conflict between the military and Rohingya militants, according to the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), a grouping of humanitarian agencies in Bangladesh.

The UN expects that number could rise as high as 300,000 by the year’s end – almost a third of the estimated one million Rohingya people, a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar.
The border guard said some Rohingya have been paying fishermen as much as $250 per person to ferry them across the river on “very risky” boats.

“They are not designed to travel on this rough sea, they are taking long detour. It’s not only the type of boat, it is the capacity, only made for five, six, or 10 people and they are taking double or triple that number sometimes,” he said.

The Rohingya are considered to be among the world’s most persecuted people – with predominantly Buddhist Myanmar saying they are Bangladeshi and Bangladesh saying they’re Burmese.

The government of Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, blames terrorists for starting the violence. Rohingya militants killed 12 security officers in border post attacks almost two weeks ago, according to state media, intensifying the latest crackdown.

Desmond Tutu begs Suu Kyi to help

As the humanitarian crisis in South Asia continued to grow, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu wrote to his fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, begging her to stop the violence.
“I am … breaking my vow of silence on public affairs out of profound sadness about the plight of the Muslim minority in your country, the Rohingya,” he wrote in an open letter, posted on his official Twitter.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the de facto ruler of Myanmar as state counselor, has repeatedly come under criticism for her lack of action to help the Rohingya, a stark contrast to her previous image as a champion of human rights.

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Outrage grows in Bangladesh

As refugees continue to pour across the border, discontent is growing inside Bangladesh at the ongoing violence in their neighboring Rakhine State.

A protest in the capital Dhaka is planned for Friday, with thousands of people expected to attend.

The Bangladeshi government summoned the Myanmar ambassador to raise concerns about reports of landmines being laid on the border in the path of refugees.

There have been reports of Rohingya being crippled after stepping on the hidden mines while making their way to safety across the border.

In total, 414 people have now been killed since the violence began in Rakhine State in recent weeks, according to a statement from the Myanmar government.

“It’s possible the Myanmar military has planted the mines. There is no one else who could do it,” a senior Bangladeshi border guard told media.

Aung San Suu Kyi Dismisses Horrific Abuse Of Rohingyas As ‘Misinformation’

The plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims reached a grim benchmark this week, with the United Nations now estimating that more than 140,000 refugees have fled to neighboring Bangladesh in just 12 days to escape persecution.

Yet amid a crisis increasingly described as genocide, Myanmar’s state counselor and former Nobel Peace Prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, has dismissed the mounting reports of abuse as “misinformation.”

The Rohingya are a Muslim minority group from Rakhine state, where they have limited rights and are classified as illegal immigrants rather than citizens. They have long been victims of state-sponsored discrimination ― including what the U.N. has deemed possible crimes against humanity.

Rohingya militants attacked government security posts on Aug. 25, triggering renewed violence and a brutal retaliation by government forces that has prompted this latest exodus. In addition to those who have fled the country, tens of thousands of Rohingya are internally displaced.

Aung San Suu Kyi

Canada is blaming Aung San Suu Kyi’s government and Myanmar’s military for failing to stop violence that has forced more than 120,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh in less than two weeks.

Parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs Omar Alghabra said the Liberal government has asked Ms. Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and honorary Canadian citizen, to find a way to stop the violence and to work with international partners to achieve peace. The Rohingya Muslims live in Rakhine state and suffer from serious restrictions on their basic rights.

Ms. Suu Kyi blamed “terrorists” for a “huge iceberg of misinformation” for the conflict in Rakhine in a statement this week.

But Ottawa is pointing fingers at her. “The violence is still ongoing so obviously there’s a failure on part of the military, on part of the government,” Mr. Alghabra told The Globe and Mail on the sidelines of the Liberal caucus meeting in Kelowna, B.C., on Wednesday.

“I don’t think we heard the end of this yet about what our role is going to be. As I said, we are still assessing the situation and we’re looking for ways for Canada to be constructive. We are in discussion as well with our embassy over there, with our officials on the ground.”

 

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