Bangladesh sees fresh Rohingya Muslim refugees influx, pushes back
At least 89 people including a dozen security forces were killed as Rohingyas besieged border posts in northern Rakhine State, Myanmar’s authorities said Friday, triggering a fresh exodus of refugees towards Bangladesh. But border guards there said they would not be allowed to cross.
Thursday night’s attacks began a few hours after a Rakhine Advisory Commission led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan released its final report and recommended that the government act quickly to improve economic development and social justice in Rakhine state to resolve violence between Buddhists and the Rohingya.
According to reports, members of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) pushed back 146 Rohingyas as they tried to enter Bangladesh through the Naf River on Friday morning.
Rakhine is bisected by religious hatred focused on the stateless Rohingya Muslim minority, who are reviled and perceived as illegal immigrants in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
The office of de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi said 12 security officials had been killed alongside 77 militants — the highest declared single day toll since fighting broke out last year.
The UN estimates that since October last year around 74,000 new Rohingya escaped to Bangladesh due to the murder and persecution at Northern Rakhine State in Myanmar. Furthermore, the Bangladesh authorities estimate that around half a million unregistered and 30,000 registered refugees are staying in Bangladesh.
The UN believes the military crackdown may have amounted to ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya.
But the army and Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government vehemently deny allegations of widespread abuses, including rapes and murders.
They have so far refused to grant visas to UN investigators tasked with probing the allegations.
Amnesty International said there were now fears over how Myanmar’s notoriously abusive security forces might respond.
“This cannot lead to (a) repeat of last year’s vicious military reprisals responding to a similar attack, when security forces tortured, killed and raped Rohingya people and burned down whole villages,” said Amnesty’s regional campaigns director Josef Benedict.
Annan said at a news conference in Yangon while presenting the UN report that, “Unless concerted action led by the government and aided by all sectors of the government and society is taken soon, we risk the return of another cycle of violence and radicalization, which will further deepen the chronic poverty that afflicts Rakhine state,”
On Friday, Annan condemned the new attacks and said he was saddened to hear about the loss of life among security forces.
“The alleged scale and gravity of these attacks mark a worrying escalation of violence. No cause can justify such brutality and senseless killing. Perpetrators should be held to account. I urge the security forces to exercise restraint in dealing with the situation and above all ensure that innocent civilians are not harmed.
“After years of insecurity and instability, it should be clear that violence is not the solution to the challenges facing Rakhine state,” he said.
The United States also condemned the attacks, saying in a statement that they “underscore the importance of implementing the recommendations” in Annan’s report.
Myanmar security forces have conducted sporadic operations to flush out suspected militants this year, often resulting in casualties among Rohingya villagers.
They have spoken of their fear at being trapped in between security forces and the militants, who are accused of conducting a shadowy assassination campaign against those perceived as collaborators with the state.
Access to the area is severely restricted and verifying information is difficult, report news agencies.