Bangladesh protests to Myanmar over new refugees

DHAKA • Bangladesh has protested to Myanmar over a new influx of refugees fleeing the troubled Rakhine state after clashes between security forces and an insurgent group, an official said yesterday.

Bangladesh's Foreign Ministry summoned Myanmar's ambassador late on Tuesday to protest against the latest arrivals from Rakhine, already notorious following a military clampdown on the Rohingya Muslims in August 2017, which sent more than 700,000 people escaping across the border.

The new arrivals are from Rakhine Buddhist and other tribal groups, a senior Foreign Ministry official told Agence France-Presse on condition of anonymity, without giving a figure.

"The number is increasing. Some people are already waiting on the border and they may also enter. We have asked (Myanmar) to take effective and urgent steps so that violence is stopped," the official said.

A Bangladesh border guard official said the refugees had crossed in a remote hill area of Bandarban district in the south-east of the country.

Bangladesh is already struggling to cope with 740,000 Rohingya Muslims who arrived after August 2017, adding to the 300,000 who had fled earlier violence in Rakhine.

Rakhine's ethnic majority, who are Buddhist, are now in conflict with the army they had helped just 18 months ago to drive out the Rohingya Muslims.


On Jan 4, the Arakan Army, a militant group calling for greater autonomy for Rakhine, killed 13 people in raids on police border posts.

The army said 13 militants have been killed in reprisal attacks, while the United Nations said at least 5,200 people have been displaced by the violence.

An accurate death toll has been impossible to ascertain because the zone is under a near-blanket lockdown.

The fighting has added a new, complex dimension to the troubles in Rakhine that since 2012 has seen religious and communal riots, the mass exodus of Rohingya and killings across all ethnic lines.

The Bangladesh protest came after Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie said on Tuesday that Myanmar must "show genuine commitment" to end violence that has driven the Rohingya into Bangladesh.

The United Nations is preparing to launch a new international appeal for nearly US$1 billion (S$1.35 billion) to look after the Rohingya.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 07, 2019, with the headline 'Bangladesh protests to Myanmar over new refugees'. Print Edition | Subscribe