Authorities urge Hindu refugees to return from Bangladesh

By NYAN HLAING LYNN | FRONTIER

NAY PYI TAW — Authorities coordinating relief for people displaced bythe latest violence in Rakhine State have urged Hindu refugees who fled to Bangladesh to return, promising they will be cared for in Sittwe.

An estimated 500 Hindus crossed over to refugee camps in Bangladesh in the weeks since the August 25 attacks on police posts in Maungdaw District by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.

U Bu Hla Shwe, who is coordinating the Danyawady IDP camp in Sittwe on behalf of the Rakhine State government, told Frontier on Tuesday that most of the Hindus across the border are from Ohtein village in Maungdaw Township, and had fled the day after the initial attacks last month.

A further eight Hindu women were from Ye Bauk Kyar village, around 15 kilometres south of the Bangladeshi border, whose inhabitants authorities previously believed had all been killed.

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According to reports by AFP this week, some of the group were “ostracised and attacked” by Muslim refugees from the conflict at the Kutupalong refugee camp, and have settled in the village nearby.

Some of those who spoke to Frontier alleged that ARSA militants had besieged and attacked Hindu villages in the opening days of the latest violence.

A government statement Monday claimed that security forces had exhumed mass graves containing at least 45 Hindu villagers, and believed that upwards of 100 Hindus may have died in the area after the August 25 attacks.

Media outlets have been unable to independently verify the allegations due to restrictions on travel to northern Rakhine State. On Wednesday, journalists were flown from Nay Pyi Taw to participate in a media tour of Maungdaw District organised by the military.

Bu Hla Shwe said that relief workers in Sittwe were ready to accommodate the group if they returned from Bangladesh.

“Please help them come back to Rakhine State as soon as possible,” he said.

State Counsellor’s Office spokesman U Zaw Htay said that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would work to organise the return of the Hindu villagers.  

In addition to the Hindu refugees, 480,000 Muslims have crossed the border in the last month, leaving local humanitarian organisations struggling to cope with an unprecedented influx.

Those that crossed over the border in the last month said soldiers and paramilitary groups had raped and killed civilian villagers, and had been responsible for torching the more than 200 Muslim villages that have been incinerated in the last month.

Similar accusations were levelled by refugees against security forces in the aftermath of ARSA attacks last October, when the ensuing security crackdown drove nearly 90,000 refugees into Bangladesh.

The government and military have denied the allegations.

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