UN: 38,000 Rohingya refugees flee Myanmar

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Dhaka, Sep 1 (IANS) At least 38,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since violence erupted in Myanmar’s Rakhine state a week ago, according to UN estimates.

UN officials in Bangladesh said 38,000 people crossed the border, while cautioning that the figure is an estimate, BBC reported on Friday.

“At least 38,000 Rohingyas entered Bangladesh in one week since August 25 and took shelter in many parts of Cox’s Bazar district,” a United Nations official in Bangladesh said.

On August 25, the rebel Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked police and military checkpoints in Rakhine which left more than 100 dead, mostly rebels. Since then thousands of Rohingyas — not recognised by the Myanmar government — crossed the border to flee violence.

Bangladeshi authorities have been stopping Rohingyas from entering the country since last week.

Mainuddin Khan, police chief in the Bangladeshi border town of Teknaf, told Efe news that locals had recovered the bodies of 16 Rohingyas, including two children, from different points of the river Naf that separates the country from Myanmar.

The latest deaths raised the Rohingya death toll to at least 40 on Friday, all of whom who died in the river trying to leave Myanmar.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees called on Bangladesh to open its borders to the Rohingyas to enable a humanitarian corridor.

UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, on Thursday said the “worsening cycle of violence” in Rakhine was of “grave concern and must be broken urgently”.

“We are seeing lots of makeshifts tents and shelters on the side of the road — every available space is being occupied,” UNHCR regional spokeswoman Vivian Tan in Bangladesh told BBC.

Tan said they had heard tales of people being shot as they tried to cross the border, but that it was not clear who was firing.

Rakhine, the poorest region in Myanmar, is home to more than a million Rohingyas. They have faced decades of persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where they are not considered citizens.

Between 300,000 and 500,000 Rohingyas live in Bangladesh but only about 32,000 of them have refugee status and live in camps in the Cox’s Bazar district.

–IANS

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