Rohingyas seek refuge in Bangladesh

A distraught Rohingya Muslim man and his son after being caught by Border Guard Bangladesh troops while illegally crossing the Myanmar border.
A distraught Rohingya Muslim man and his son after being caught by Border Guard Bangladesh troops while illegally crossing the Myanmar border.PHOTO: REUTERS

DHAKA • Hundreds of Rohingyas have arrived in Bangladesh after fleeing violence in neighbouring Myanmar, community leaders said yesterday, many with horrific tales of troops killing people and burning villages.

Border guards in Bangladesh prevented hundreds more from crossing into the country despite pleas by the United Nations for the country to open its border after up to 30,000 Rohingyas were displaced by violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

Bangladeshi troops have intensified patrols along the 237km border, but Rohingya community leaders estimate that 1,000 people still managed to cross over during the past week.

FLIGHT FOR HIS LIFE

The (Myanmar) army killed my father and elder brother. I hid on a hill and then walked and swam across the river and took refuge at a mosque (in Bangladesh).

MOHAMMAD AMIN, on how he and 15 others were forced to flee their homes in Rakhine five days ago.

Most are hiding in camps for the 32,000 legally registered Rohingyas already living in south-eastern Bangladesh, fearing repatriation if they are found by authorities.

Mohammad Amin, 17, said he and 15 others fled their homes in Rakhine five days ago and reached Bangladesh by swimming across the Naf River that divides the two countries. "The (Myanmar) army killed my father and elder brother. I hid on a hill and then walked and swam across the river and took refuge at a mosque (in Bangladesh)," he told Agence France-Presse by phone from Cox's Bazar near the border.

"Where I looked, I saw only burnt houses. I don't know what happened to my mother and sister."

Ms Zohra Khatun, 25, arrived on Monday with her seven children after their village was burnt to the ground, and has been helped by a relative living in a refugee camp in Bangladesh. "I waited two days before I had the chance to cross the river to come here," she said by phone.

Commanders of the paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh said their troops had blocked nearly 300 Rohingyas from crossing the border overnight, the highest number since the crisis began last month.

Myanmar troops have poured into a strip of land that is home to the stateless Muslim Rohingya minority since a series of attacks on police border posts last month.

State media reports in Myanmar say security forces have killed almost 70 people and arrested some 400 since the lockdown began six weeks ago, but activists say the number could be far higher. Witnesses and activists have reported troops killing Rohingyas, raping women and burning their houses.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 23, 2016, with the headline 'Rohingyas seek refuge in Bangladesh'. Print Edition | Subscribe