Dhaka on Wednesday demanded that Myanmar de-escalate violence in Rakhine state that has produced an “unbearable” and “unprecedented” influx of Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh, in a third diplomatic protest lodged in less than two weeks amid a burgeoning humanitarian crisis.
Also Wednesday, the bodies of five people allegedly shot by Myanmar security forces were found near a river bank near the border in Ukhia district, a local policeman told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
Earlier in the day, five children drowned when their boat capsized in the river, and, in a separate incident, a woman’s body was found floating in the Naf River that separates the two countries, officials said.
“At 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, police recovered five shot-dead bodies, including a woman, from the Anjumanpara border point of Palangkhali union [in] Ukhia,” said Abdul Khayer, the officer in charge of the local police station.
“Rohingyas standing in no man’s land, informed us that the woman and four men were shot dead inside Myanmar by their military near the border,” he added.
In Dhaka, Bangladesh’s foreign ministry again summoned a senior diplomat at Myanmar’s embassy to air its displeasure over the crisis that has now seen nearly 150,000 Rohingya refugees spill across the border since Aug. 25, according to figures updated by the U.N. on Wednesday.
“Bangladesh expressed deep concern on the escalation of violence in the Rakhine State resulting in huge influx of affected civilian population entering into Bangladesh to escape from violence and save their lives,” the ministry said in a statement.
“Bangladesh demanded immediate measures from Myanmar to de-escalate the ongoing violence in the Northern Rakhine State and immediate effective measures from the Myanmar authorities to stop the ongoing influx of Myanmar nationals into Bangladesh and requests Myanmar to address the real cause of such unprecedented exodus,” it added.
The latest influx started on Aug. 25, following an outbreak of violence and fighting between government forces and an insurgent group called the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) in Rakhine state.
Suu Kyi: an ‘iceberg of misinformation’
Before then, at least 400,000 Rohingya refugees were already living in camps and settlements scattered across southeastern Bangladesh.
Bangladesh “must not be a victim of repeated violence and instability” in Rakhine, the ministry added, saying it was also concerned about “the reported laying down of anti-personnel land mine[s] close to the zero line of the border by Myanmar security forces.”
Myanmar officials have denied allegations that government forces are targeting Rohingya civilians or burning down villages in Maungdaw Township.
State Counselor Aung Sang Suu Kyi, who has been widely criticized abroad for failing to stop or speak against violence against the stateless Rohingya minority, on Wednesday issued a rare statement on the issue.
Worldwide outrage over Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims was the result of a “huge iceberg of misinformation,” she said in a statement issued by her office, according to reports.
Suu Kyi said her government had “already started defending all the people in Rakhine in the best way possible” and warned against misinformation that could mar relations with other countries.
Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) officials said Myanmar security forces had been planting land mines along the border near areas of Cox’s Bazar district.
“We have heard the sound of blasts of anti-personnel land mines along the bordering areas such as Tambru and Ghundum,” Lt. Col. Monjurul Hasan Khan, the local BGB commander, told BenarNews.
“Three days ago, an injured Rohingya woman came to us. One of her legs was blown away by the blast as she tried to cross [into Bangladesh],” he said.
“On Tuesday, two juvenile Rohingya came to us with injuries. One of the boys lost one of his legs while the other boy was seriously injured by the blast of land mines. We are treating them at our hospital,” he said.
In Teknaf, another sub-district of Cox’s Bazar, officials said they found the bodies of five children who had drowned.
“We recovered five dead bodies of children aged between seven and eight years, from the Shahporirdwip area,” Mayeen Uddin Khan, officer-in-charge of the Teknaf police station, told BenarNews.
146,000 and counting
An estimated 146,000 people have now fled to Bangladesh since the violence in Rakhine erupted late last month, according to Joseph Tripura, a spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency’s (UNHCR) office in Dhaka.
However, Dipayan Bhattacharyyaan, an official with the U.N.’s World Food Program, told Reuters that U.N. officials were revising their estimates for the total number of refugees from the new influx to as many as 300,000 from an original forecast of 120,000.
Meanwhile on Wednesday, a BenarNews correspondent in Cox’s Bazar reported that “huge numbers” of refugees were crossing over the frontier through some 30 entry points, including at Neela, Hoaikong, Khanjorpara, Ulubunia, Shahporirdwip, Teknaf sea beach and Lombabeel.
“Their infiltration continues, but between dawn and morning on Wednesday, we stopped 2,649 people from entering Bangladesh,” Lt. Col. S.M. Ariful Islam, the chief of the border police in Teknaf, told BenarNews.
Those who made their way to Bangladesh were herded to Putubunia, where the BGB had built temporary shelters for new refugee arrivals, he said.
“But we are not forcing anyone to go to Myanmar. We are behaving humanely with them,” he said.
Md. Shah Alam, 45, was among the Rohingya refugees who made it across the frontier on Wednesday.
Myanmar military forces and hardline Buddhists, whom he referred to as “Moghs,” were burning down villages in Rakhine, he said.
“The Rohingya men are sending the women and children to Bangladesh for safety,” Alam told BenarNews.
The military were killing Rohingya men, he alleged.
“So, they have been hiding in the jungles and hills without food and water. Those who can are crossing to Bangladesh [to save] their lives,” Alam said, adding,
“They will obliterate us.”
Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.