The Latest: UN says 389,000 Rohingyas have fled in 3 weeks
COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) — The Latest on violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and the flood of ethnic Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh (all times local):
The U.N. says its humanitarian officials report that 389,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh since violence broke out in Myanmar’s Rakhine state on Aug. 25.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters at U.N. headquarters on Thursday 10,000 people reportedly crossed the border that in the last 24 hours.
He says combined with the Rohingyas who fled during the last round of violence in Rakhine state last October “it’s estimated that some 40 percent of the total Rohingya population have now fled into Bangladesh.”
Dujarric says an estimated 60 percent of the Rohingyas arriving in Bangladesh are children.
He says the U.N. children’s agency, UNICEF, reports that there is an acute shortage of everything, “most critically shelter, food and clean water.”
It has appealed for $7 million over the next four months for emergency support for the Rohingyas.
Dujarric said “the sheer number of refugees has overwhelmed pre-existing refugee camps, with new arrivals seeking shelter anywhere that they can find space.”
Amnesty International says it has turned up evidence of an “orchestrated campaign of systematic burnings” by Myanmar security forces targeting dozens of Rohingya villages over the last three weeks.
The advocacy group is releasing a new analysis of video, satellite photos, witness accounts and other data that found over 80 sites were torched in northern Rakhine State since an Aug. 25 militant attack on a border post.
The U.N. estimates that at least 370,000 people have fled to Bangladesh since then.
Top U.N. officials have previously expressed concerns about possible “ethnic cleansing” perpetrated against the Rohingya.
Amnesty’s findings released Friday in Myanmar offer some of the most precise evidence that Rohingya areas were specifically targeted.
Myanmar authorities have curtailed access for journalists and rights advocates to Rakhine in recent months.
British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson says the suffering of the Rohingya people is an “abomination,” and that Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi must use her authority to halt the violence against the Muslim minority group.
The U.N. children’s agency says up to 400,000 Rohingya have fled recent violence in Myanmar for neighboring Bangladesh since Rohingya insurgents attacked Myanmar police and paramilitary posts in late August, and the military responded with “clearance operations.”
Speaking at a news conference alongside U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Johnson said he admired Suu Kyi’s fight against Myanmar’s former military junta, but “it is now vital for her to use that moral capital, that moral authority to make the point about the suffering” of the Rohingya.
He says “it is vital for her now to make clear that this is an abomination and that those people will be allowed back” to their homes.
The British government is providing an additional 25 million pounds ($33 million) to Bangladesh and Myanmar to help them cope with a humanitarian disaster caused by the dislocation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims.
British officials said Thursday that most of the money will be spent in Bangladesh to provide assistance including food, shelter, water and sanitation for Rohingya refugees fleeing violence in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
The British government said better access is “urgently needed” to provide aid directly to those affected in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
International Development Secretary Priti Patel said humanitarian assistance must be allowed to get to those who need it on a greatly expanded basis.
The British government earlier provided nearly 11 million pounds in aid.
European Union lawmakers are demanding that Myanmar security forces halt the violence on Rohingya as thousands continued to flee Thursday.
The EU lawmakers adopted a resolution urging Myanmar “to immediately cease the killings, harassment and rape of the Rohingya people, and the burning of their homes.”
They also called for aid groups to be given immediate access to the conflict area and fleeing people.
The lawmakers called on Myanmar’s government and leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to “condemn unequivocally all incitement to racial or religious hatred and combat social discrimination and hostilities.”
They noted that Suu Kyi had won the assembly’s Sakharov Prize in 1990 — an award given for the defense of human rights, minorities and respecting international law.
The U.N. children’s agency says up to 400,000 Rohingya have fled recent violence in Myanmar and entered Bangladesh.
UNICEF released the revised tally in a statement Thursday that warned of a “monumental task” ahead in protecting hundreds of thousands of children among the refugees.
The agency is asking for $7.3 million to help protect Rohingya children over the next four months.
The Rohingya insurgent group whose Aug. 25 attacks on police posts triggered weeks of violence and retaliation by Myanmar’s military is denying any links with Islamic jihadist or transnational terrorist groups and says it does not want them involved in its conflict.
The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, or ARSA, said in a statement posted Thursday on its Twitter account that it wants countries to help prevent foreign fighters from entering Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
The statement was apparently issued as a response to reports that al-Qaida has been urging Muslim militants around the world to support ARSA or join its struggle.
Myanmar’s government describes ARSA as “extremist terrorists” but has not publicly provided much evidence of their alleged links to outside groups.
ARSA leader Ata Ullah is believed to be have been born in Pakistan as the son of a Muslim man from Rakhine, and educated in Saudi Arabia. ARSA says it is fighting to protect Rohingya Muslims from persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
Bangladesh police say another boat carrying about 40 Rohingya women and children fleeing Myanmar has capsized in the monsoon-swollen Naf River.
Teknaf police chief Mainuddin Khan says at least two people drowned, while others managed to swim to safety on the Bangladeshi shore.
An AP photographer saw one injured baby taken to a hospital in critical condition.
Khan said dozens of boats have capsized since the refugees began fleeing violence in Myanmar on Aug. 25.
Police have recovered a total of 88 bodies from the river that divides the two countries.
India says it is sending aid supplies including food and mosquito nets to help the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who have poured into Bangladesh to escape recent violence in Myanmar.
The foreign ministry said the supplies would be sent in several air lifts starting Thursday and would include rice, pulses, sugar, salt, cooking oil, tea, noodles and biscuits.
Bangladesh has been overwhelmed by the refugee influx, and supplies remain scarce at camps in the border district of Cox’s Bazar.
Other nations and U.N. agencies were also sending and distributing supplies.
Nearly three weeks into a crisis that has seen hundreds of thousands of Rohingya flee into Bangladesh, desperation was spreading at refugee camps where aid remains scarce.
The U.N. children’s agency says it needs $7.3 million to help just the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya children now at high risk of contracting water-borne diseases.
Scenes of panic erupted Thursday along roadsides where local volunteers were distributing food, water and other supplies haphazardly from parked vehicles. Local officials shouted through bullhorns for volunteers to coordinate their efforts with aid agencies to avoid spreading chaos.
UNICEF’s country representative Edouard Beigbeder said “there are acute shortages of everything, most critically shelter, food and clean water.”