In the last ten days, 87,000 Rohingya refugees have entered Bangladesh from Myanmar, the United Nations said on Monday, taking the total number who have exited the country to 150,000 since last October. The mass exodus from the prominently-Buddhist country to Bangladesh comes in the wake of increasing violence between Rohingya insurgents and the Myanmar military.
Rohingyas, a community of just 1.1 million, have a longstanding rift with Buddhists in Myanmar. On August 25 this year, an insurgent group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, conducted a coordinated attack on over 25 police and paramilitary posts in the western region of Myanmar. The attack left 89 dead, including 77 insurgents and 12 personnel, according to Reuters. In retaliation, the Myanmar military launched a counter-offensive, which is called a “clearance operation” which killed at least 400 people — whom the Myanmar government claims were insurgents.
Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi called the attacks “a calculated attempt to undermine the efforts of those seeking to build peace and harmony in Rakhine state,” reported AP. She added, “I would like to commend the members of the police and security forces who have acted with great courage in the face of many challenges,”
Taking responsibility for the attack, the militant group claimed it was carried out in defence against the government’s brutalisation against the ethnic minority. However, the violence which ensued left thousands trying to cross the border to safer territory.
How is Bangladesh dealing with the situation?
In Bangladesh, Rohingya refugee camps are reaching full capacity. Over 50 refugees, who arrived in the country with bullet injuries, were moved to local hospitals along the border. The medical facilities along the border are insufficient to deal with the influx of people. Severl Rohingyas have died while trying to cross the river separating the country from Myanmar, reported AP.
In a statement on August 26, a day after the militant attack, India said it was “seriously concerned by reports of renewed violence and attacks by terrorists in the northern Rakhine state of Myanmar. We are deeply saddened at the loss of lives among members of the Myanmar security forces…” However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is travelling to Myanmar on a two-day visit this week, may make another statement on the issue.
Meanwhile, two Rohingya immigrants have filed a petition in the Supreme Court against the Centre’s move to deport illegal Rohingyas from India. The hearing is scheduled for Monday. The petitioners have argued that they have taken refuge in India after facing violence and bloodshed in Myanmar. They have argued that deportation would go against the Principle of Non-Refoulement “which has been widely recognised as a principle of Customary International Law”.
What’s the global response?
The United Nations condemned the attacks carried out by militants, but added that the government has a responsibility to protect all civilians “without discrimination”. It has appealed to the government to prevent the use of disproportionate force on Rohingyas as well.
Countries across the world have reacted to the latest bout of violence in Myanmar and the exodus of Rohingyas. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, describing the violence against Muslims to genocide, offered aid to Bangladesh’s President Abdul Hamid. He offered to shelter some of the fleeing Rohingya too.
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Britain has reacted saying Suu Kyi, regarded as one of the most inspiring figures of our age, is allowing the treatment of the Rohingya to “besmirch” the reputation of Myanmar. Britain foreign minister Boris Johnson said: “I hope (Suu Kyi) can now use all her remarkable qualities to unite her country, to stop the violence and to end the prejudice that afflicts both Muslims and other communities.”
Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said the country is preparing to receive people fleeing from Myanmar — he did not specify Rohingyas. In a statement, he said: “Thailand’s defence ministry and security are preparing to receive various displaced people. We will provide them with shelter like in the past, and send them back when they are ready.”
Indonesia’s foreign minister will meet Suu Kyi on Monday to discuss the situation and offer humanitarian aid to the minority group. Protests have erupted in Indonesia, outside the Myanmar Embassy, against the violence. Agitators are calling for the government to severe ties with Myanmar. “We will discuss in detail Indonesia’s proposal on how Indonesia can give humanitarian aid to Rakhine state,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi had said. She will later travel to Bangladesh to urge authorities to protect the Rohingyas who are fleeing Myanmar.
Pope Francis is scheduled to travel to Myanmar and Bangladesh towards the end of this year.
Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai described the treatment of Rohingyas “shameful” and “shameful” on Sunday, calling on fellow laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to speak out. In a tweet, she said “the world is waiting” for Suu Kyi to speak out.
(With inputs from agencies)