Ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya in Myanmar

Rakhine State in western Myanmar is in crisis rights groups say as thousands of largely stateless Rohingya Muslims attempt to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, while others are agitating for dangerous boat trips to Malaysia amid reports of villages being razed and gang rapes by Myanmar’s military.

At least 5,000 Rohingya have fled the religiously and ethnically divided state where the military has operated counter-insurgency operations since Oct. 9 that has left more than 100 people dead and more than 400 arrested.

Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, an advocacy group on Rohingya rights, said that at least 5,000 people fled to Bangladesh during Nov. 14-20 period.

“About 1,500 are stranded on a disputed island between Myanmar and Bangladesh in the middle of the Naf River without any food or water,” Lewa told ucanews.com.

The United Nations said that they couldn’t verify the numbers of Rohingya refugees, as they have no access to those areas.

“We have been appealing for access in order to assess and help meet the need for shelter, food and medical attention,” Vivian Tan, spokesperson of the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, told ucanews.com.

For many Rohingya, reaching the border does not mean safe arrival.

Bangladesh has hardened its stance on keeping its border closed and has tried to push refugees back as the country struggles to cope with the exodus.

“The Bangladeshi government must not add to the suffering of Rohingya. They should be recognized and protected as refugees fleeing persecution, not punished for who they are,” Champa Patel, South Asia director of Amnesty International said in a statement on Nov. 24.

A 40-year-old Rohingya woman told the London-based rights group that she had fled to Bangladesh after the Myanmar army killed her husband and one of her sons. She said she was not able to find shelter in a camp for herself and her two young children.

“We are sleeping outside in the mud,” she said. ” My son is 2- years-old and is crying all the time, he is very cold in the mornings. Still, compared to Myanmar, Bangladesh seems like heaven to me.” Continue reading

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