DHAKA, Bangladesh – Thousands of Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslims are fleeing to Bangladesh following a campaign of arson and killings by the army in the Buddhist-majority nation.
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The recent deadliest violence in Myanmar’s northwest has so far claimed nearly 400 lives, with the army claiming it is conducting clearance operations against “extremist terrorists”.
Around 38,000 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar, United Nations sources said, a week after Rohingya alleged insurgents attacked police posts and an army base in Rakhine state, prompting clashes and a military counteroffensive.
“As of August 31, 38,000 people are estimated to have crossed the border into Bangladesh,” the officials said on Friday, in their latest estimate.
The treatment of Myanmar’s roughly 1.1 million Rohingya is the biggest challenge facing national leader Aung San Suu Kyi, accused by some Western critics of not speaking out for a minority that has long complained of persecution.
The clashes and ensuing army crackdown have killed about 370 Rohingya insurgents, but also 13 security forces, two government officials and 14 civilians, the Myanmar military said on Thursday.
By comparison, communal violence in 2012 in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine, led to the killing of nearly 200 people and the displacement of about 140,000, most of them Rohingya.
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, evacuated more than 11,700 “ethnic residents” from the area affected by fighting, the army said, referring to the non-Muslim population of northern Rakhine.
Bangladesh border guards found the bodies of 15 Rohingya Muslims, 11 children among them, floating in the river on Friday. That takes to about 40 the total of Rohingya known to have died by drowning.–Agencies