NEW YORK: About 270,000 Rohingya Muslims have sought shelter in Bangladesh since violence erupted in Myanmar two weeks ago, the UN says. A spokeswoman said the jump – up from 164,000 on Thursday – was because new pockets of people had been found. She called the figure “so alarming” and said urgent action was needed to address the situation in Myanmar. Those fleeing say Myanmar’s military are burning their villages and attacking them.
The violence began on 25 August when Rohingya militants attacked police posts in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state.
Rohingya residents – a stateless mostly Muslim minority in a Buddhist-majority nation – say the military and Rakhine Buddhists responded with a brutal campaign against them. Myanmar rejects this, saying its military is fighting against Rohingya militants.
For two weeks, Rohingya families have been streaming north across the Bangladesh border. Vivian Tan, a spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency UNHCR, said the latest surge in numbers “does not necessarily reflect fresh arrivals within the past 24 hours but that we have identified more people in different areas that we were not aware of before”.
Existing refugee camps are full and people who had crossed the border were setting up shelters “on the roads or whatever empty space they could find”, she said. They were “exhausted, hungry and desperate for shelter”, a UNHCR briefing note said.
Some are trekking to the Naf River, which forms the border, and others are sailing up the coast. At least 300 Rohingya boats arrived in Cox’s Bazar, in Bangladesh, on Wednesday, the UN’s migration body said. The Rohingya plight is sparking concern and protests in many nations, and Myanmar’s de facto leader Aug San Suu Kyi has been criticised for failing to protect them. Agencies