21,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since October: UN


DHAKA — More than 20,000 people have fled from northern Rakhine State to neighbouring Bangladesh in recent weeks, humanitarian officials said on Tuesday, following a bloody crackdown by the army in neighbouring Myanmar.

Bangladesh has stepped up patrols on the border to try to stem the tide of refugees since an eruption of unrest in Rakhine State in early October, following a coordinated attack on police posts in Maungdaw District.

But Sanjukta Sahany, head of the International Organization for Migration office in Bangladesh’s southeastern district of Cox’s Bazar, said around 21,000 members of the stateless ethnic minority had crossed over in the past two months.

The vast majority of those who arrived took refuge in makeshift settlements, official refugee camps and villages, said Sahany.

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“An estimated 21,000 Rohingya have arrived in Cox’s Bazar district between October 9 and December 2,” she told AFP by phone, addinf the figures were gathered by UN agencies and international NGOs.

The Dhaka office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in a statement also said it “estimate(d) that there could be 21,000 new arrivals in recent weeks”.

Those interviewed by AFP inside Bangladesh told horrifying stories of gang rape, torture and murder at the hands of Myanmar’s security forces.

Analysis of satellite images by Human Rights Watch found hundreds of buildings in Rohingya villages have been razed.

Myanmar has denied allegations of abuse but has banned foreign journalists and independent investigators from accessing the area.

State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has faced a growing international backlash for what a UN official said amounted to a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Rohingya community.

But Kofi Annan, a former UN chief appointed by Suu Kyi as head of an advisory commission on Rakhine State, hoped Myanmar would allow journalists to visit the state to “help eliminate some of the rumours we are hearing”.

“The issue of genocide and ethnic cleansing — this is a very serious charge. It is a charge that requires legal review and a judicial determination,” Annan told reporters in Yangon.

“It is not a charge that should be thrown around loosely.”

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