COX'S BAZAR (Bangladesh) • Myanmar urged MuslimRohingya in the troubled north-west to cooperate in the search for insurgents, whose coordinated attacks on security posts amid an army crackdown have led to one of the deadliest bouts of violence to engulf the Rohingya community in decades.
Aid agencies estimate that 73,000 Rohingya have fled into neighbouring Bangladesh from Myanmar since violence erupted last week, Ms Vivian Tan, regional spokesman for the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, told Reuters yesterday.
Hundreds more refugees yesterday walked through rice paddies from the Naf River separating the two countries into Bangladesh, straining the scarce resources of aid groups and local communities already helping tens of thousands.
The clashes and military counter-offensive have killed nearly 400 people during the past week.
The treatment of roughly 1.1 million Muslim Rohingya in Buddhist-majority Myanmar is the biggest challenge facing leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is accused by Western critics of not speaking out for the minority that has long complained of persecution.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday that violence against Muslims amounted to genocide.
It marks a dramatic escalation of a conflict that has simmered since October when a smaller Rohingya attack on security posts prompted a military response dogged by allegations of rights abuses.
APPEAL FOR COOPERATION
Islamic villagers in northern Maungtaw have been urged over loudspeakers to cooperate when security forces search for Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) extremist terrorists, and to not pose a threat or brandish weapons when security forces enter their villages.
THE STATE-RUN GLOBAL NEW LIGHT OF MYANMAR
"Islamic villagers in northern Maungtaw have been urged over loudspeakers to cooperate when security forces search for Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) extremist terrorists, and to not pose a threat or brandish weapons when security forces enter their villages," the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar said yesterday.
Arsa has been declared a terrorist organisation by the government. The group claimed responsibility for coordinated attacks on security posts last week.
In Maungni village in northern Rakhine earlier last week, villagers caught two Arsa members and handed them over to the authorities, the newspaper added.
The army wrote in a Facebook post yesterday that Rohingya insurgents had set fires to monasteries, images of Buddha as well as schools and houses in northern Rakhine.
More than 200 buildings, including houses and shops, were destroyed across several villages, the army said.
While Myanmar officials blamed Arsa for the burning of the homes, Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh and human rights watchers say a campaign of arson and killings by the army is aimed at trying to force the minority group out.
More than 11,700 "ethnic residents" have been evacuated from northern Rakhine, the government has said, referring to non-Muslims.
In Bangladesh, the authorities said the bodies of at least 53 Rohingya had either been found floating in the Naf River or washed up on the beach in the past week, as tens of thousands continue to try to flee the violence.
A senior leader of the Yemeni branch of militant group Al-Qaeda has called for attacks on the Myanmar authorities in support of the Rohingya.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has said Myanmar's security forces should seek holistic approaches in addressing the crisis in Rakhine state.
"We urge for calm and restraint. The dire situation facing our Rohingya brothers and sisters must be alleviated for (the) good of Myanmar & region," he tweeted yesterday, echoing UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' call last Friday for restraint and calm to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.
REUTERS, THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK