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Myanmar's Rohingya flee crackdown and insurgency

September 3, 2017

More than 70,000 people have fled sectarian violence in Myanmar amid a widening military crackdown. But a Rohingya insurgency has also prompted smaller Buddhist and Hindu groups to flee Myanmar's poorest state.

Rohingya refugees flee sectarian violence in Myanmar
Image: picture-alliance/Zuma Press/Suvra Kanti Das

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on Sunday said thousands of Rohingya fleeing sectarian violence in Myanmar have poured into Bangladesh, exacerbating an unfolding humanitarian crisis in the borderlands.

"Hundreds of people displaced by the violence are still crossing into Bangladesh. An estimated 73,000 people have entered into Bangladesh as of Sunday morning," Joseph Tripura, UNHCR spokesman, told DPA news agency.

Read more: Myanmar's Rohingya: What you need to know

Since August 25, Myanmar has witnessed the worst sectarian violence in years, with Burmese security forces and Muslim-minority Rohingya militants accusing each other of burning down villages and staging mass killings. Some 400 people have been killed by the ensuing violence.

Dozens of Rohingya have died attempting to cross the river that separates Myanmar and Bangladesh, while tens of thousands have been turned back by Bangladeshi border guards.

'Military destroyed everything'

The army has blamed the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army for coordinated ambushes on its outposts, setting fire to villages and committing massacres. But testimonies gathered from Rohingya in Bangladesh instead implicated the military in the violent acts.

"We fled to Bangladesh to save our lives. The military and extremist Rakhine burning us, burning us, killing us, setting our village on fire," said a man who goes by the name Karim.

Read more: Deportation looms large over Rohingyas in India

He said he paid the equivalent of €125 ($149) for each of his family members to be trafficked across the river into Bangladesh after soldiers entered his village and executed more than 100 Rohingya.

"The military destroyed everything. After killing some Rohingya, the military burned their houses and shops … We have a baby who is 8 days only, and an old woman who is 105."

Meanwhile, Buddhist and Hindu groups have also fled the state, citing attacks by Rohingya militant groups.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday warned Burmese authorities to rein in the violence and allow aid works into affected areas or witness a "humanitarian catastrophe."

Stateless Rohingya struggle in Bangladesh

ls/tj (Reuters, dpa)