More than 10,000 Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar have crossed the border into Bangladesh to flee violence that has escalated over the past two months, a United Nations official and a Rohingya community leader said Wednesday.
Bangladeshi authorities said they were now allowing some vulnerable refugees into the country on a humanitarian basis. Earlier, officials had stated that they were sealing the southeastern border with Myanmar and pushing back hundreds of people trying to cross over, despite reports of killings and the burning of Rohingya homes during a Burmese government crackdown in neighboring Rakhine state.
The exodus into Bangladesh from Rakhine is the largest since 2012, when thousands from Myanmar’s Rohingya minority escaped violence in the state between Muslims and members of the country’s Buddhist majority.
“Based on reports by various humanitarian agencies, we estimate that there could be 10,000 new arrivals in recent weeks,” Vivian Tan, a spokeswoman in for the U.N. refugee agency’s office in Bangkok, said Wednesday.
“The situation is fast changing and the actual number could be much higher.”
Hafez Ahmed, a leader of unregistered Rohingya in Kutupalang Camp in Cox’s Bazar, a district in southeastern Bangladesh, told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service, the number of refugees could be double the figure given by the U.N.
About 10,000 of the new influx of Rohingya were at his camp while others were spread out elsewhere in the southeast.
Another Rohingya leader told Voice of America (VOA), a sister entity of RFA, that many wanted to return to their old way of life.
“The Rohingya have been seeking temporary shelter in Bangladesh only to save their lives from a genocide-like situation in Myanmar. For most of us, life as refugees is very hard in Bangladesh. Arakan (Rakhine), where our Rohingya community has lived for centuries, is our ancestral homeland. We want to go back to Arakan,” said Mohammad Shaker, a Rohingya leader in Cox’s Bazar.
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Reported by BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
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