Ignoring international appeals, Bangladesh is holding to its decision to bar Rohingya Muslim refugees fleeing Myanmar by boat after new state sponsored violence broke out in the Buddhist-majority country.
As a military lockdown in northwestern Myanmar’s Arakan (Rakhine) state stretches into a second month, hundreds of Rohingya people have sought to illegally cross over to neighboring Bangladesh. The United Nations last week said 30,000 people, mostly Muslim Rohingya, have been displaced and rights groups estaimate more than 80 have been killed during the crackdown and number may exceed according to local sources.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) urged Myanmar to take all measures to protect civilians in Arakan (Rakhine).
“We are also appealing to the government of Bangladesh to keep its border with Myanmar open and allow safe passage to any civilians from Myanmar fleeing violence,” UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said in Geneva last week.
However, Bangladesh border guards said they have been ordered bar any Rohingya from entering Bangladesh.
“In the past six weeks we have pushed back dozens of Rohingya-laden boats before they could reach Bangladeshi territory. We have been intercepting two or three such boats every day. They all are being sent back toward Myanmar,” Lt Col Abuzar Al Zahid, commanding officer of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) in southeastern Bangladesh, told VOA.
Still, local people in the Bangladesh border town of Teknaf told VOA that a few hundred Rohingya have managed to enter across the border.
The latest round of tension broke out in Arakan (Rakhine), where most Rohingya live in Myanmar, after armed men attacked border guard on October 9.
Note: Changes have been made, VOA is not responsible for these.