Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims have crossed into Bangladesh in recent days, following a fresh military build-up in Myanmar‘s western state of Rakhine.
Rohingya community leaders said on Wednesday that at least 500 members had made the difficult journey into the neighboring country. The refugees claim that they have been abused by soldiers in Myanmar.
Abu Toyyob, 25, said he escaped with his seven-member family as the military vandalized houses belonging to the Rohingya and detained young men.
“They arrested my younger brother from home and injured my two-year-old son by kicking him with boots,” Toyyob was quoted as saying by AFP. “I immediately set off with my family and crossed the Naf two nights ago,” he added, referring to the river between Myanmar and Bangladesh.
An official with the International Organisation for Migration said the IOM was aware of new arrivals in Bangladesh. The numbers were “not as alarming as the October influx,” the official said. The UN agency seeks settlements for unregistered Rohingya refugees.
UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee recently voiced alarm about reports that a Myanmar army battalion had flown into Rakhine to help local authorities boost security in the region.
The latest influx follows a months-long bloody military crackdown on the mainly Muslim minority in Myanmar last year.
Nearly 400,000 Rohingya refugees are living in squalid refugee camps and makeshift settlements in the resort district of Cox’s Bazar, which borders Rakhine. Their numbers swelled last October, when more than 70,000 Rohingya villagers began arriving. They are increasingly unwelcome in Muslim-majority Bangladesh. Dhaka has floated the idea of relocating tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees to a remote, flood-prone island off its coast, despite opposition from rights groups.
Bangladeshi border guard said it had stepped up patrols after reports of a military build-up on the other side of the river.
Some 75,000 people have fled from the Muslim-majority northern part of Rakhine to Bangladesh since Myanmar’s military crackdown began, according to a UN report.
Numerous accounts have already been provided by eyewitnesses of summary executions, rapes and arson attacks against Muslims since the crackdown began. The military has blocked access to Rakhine and banned journalists and aid workers from entering the zone.
The treatment of the roughly one million Rohingya in Myanmar has emerged as the country’s most contentious human rights issue.
Myanmar has long faced international criticism for its treatment of Rohingya Muslims, who are denied citizenship and live in conditions rights groups have compared to those of the Blacks under the former apartheid regime in South Africa.