At least 12 Rohignya Muslims, including six children, have been killed in yet another boat tragedy in waters off Bangladesh, which is reportedly dealing with a fresh influx of refugees fleeing Myanmar’s violence-torn Rakhine State.
Police said the boat carrying the refugees from Myanmar capsized in the Bay of Bengal near a fishing village in a coastal Bangladeshi district early Monday morning.
Local police official Sheikh Ashrafuzzaman said villagers had recovered at least 5 of the dead bodies.
Ashrafuzzaman said according to the survivors, up to 65 people were on board the boat.
Nearly 200 Rohingya refugees are reported to have drowned since late August while trying to reach Bangladesh through the Naf river separating the two countries.
Over half-a-million Rohingya Muslims have arrived in Bangladesh in the last seven weeks from Myanmar’s western Rakhine State. They are fleeing a government-backed military crackdown, which began on August 25 after a series of attacks on army and police posts in the state.
Human rights groups and those who have managed to take refuge in Bangladesh have reported indiscriminate acts of violence against Rakhine-based Muslims, including random shootings, rape and arson attacks.
The world body has censured the crackdown as an ethnic cleansing campaign against Myanmar’s minority Muslim group.
Over the weekend, the UN said over the weekend that 537,000 Rohingya refugees had arrived in Bangladesh.
AFP quoted local border guard spokesman Major Iqbal Ahmed as saying Monday that another 12,000 have entered in the last 24 hours.
“We are keeping them near the border and they will eventually be taken to the new camps,” added the local official.
Bangladesh has allocated 3,000 acres (1,214 hectares) of forest land to create the world’s largest refugee camp for the new arrivals as well as those already in the country.
Witnesses said Monday that many of the refugees that crossed the border were suffering injuries.
“We couldn’t step out of the house for the last month because the military were looting people,” said a refugee. “They started firing on the village. So we escaped into another village.”
He said that the situation is getting worse day by day, “so we started moving towards Bangladesh. Before we left, I went back near my village to see my house, and the entire village was burnt down.”
The new refugee group also recounted how they suffered starvation at home as the army shut down Rakhine food markets and restricted aid deliveries.
Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has been criticized for inaction over the atrocities against the Muslim community, which is considered by the United Nations as the “most persecuted minority group in the world.”
Meanwhile, the European Union and the US are considering targeted sanctions against the government in Myanmar, which refuses to grant citizenship to its Rohingya Muslims and brands them as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants.
EU foreign ministers, who are scheduled to discuss the crisis later in the day, said in a draft joint statement that the EU “will suspend invitations to the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar/Burma armed forces and other senior military officers.”
The Myanmarese government, however, says the exodus of Rohingya Muslims is being “exaggerated.”
source: press tv