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Ethnic Violence in Burma Triggers Refugee Crisis

Dhaka: September 9, 2017. Aid workers in Bangladesh said refugee camps were reaching their capacity as some 123,000 Rohingya Muslims fled into the country from Burma, also known as Myanmar, following nearly two weeks of deadly violence. International activists and aid groups are calling on the Myanmar leader to intervene in the growing unrest.

The crisis began Aug. 25 when Rohingya militants staged an attack against government security forces after accusing them of persecuting their minority group. The Myanmar military responded with “clearance operations” that killed nearly 400 people, burned down hundreds of buildings, and chased tens of thousands of other Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh.

Aid officials said some of the refugees arrived with bullet injuries, while others suffered from infections and malnutrition. Dr. Shaheen Abdur Rahman Choudhury, a resident medical officer at the Sadar Hospital in the border town of Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, said doctors were treating some 31 men who arrived with broken bones and bullet wounds. United Nations refugee agency spokeswoman Vivian Tan said the Rohingya Muslims have filled up three other refugee camps, and thousands more are staying wherever they find space.

Mohammed Hussein, a 25-year old Rohingya Muslim who arrived in Bangladesh, told Reuters he was still looking for a place to stay. “We have no food,” he said. “Some women gave birth on the roadside. Sick children have no treatment here.”

In a statement on Sept. 4, the Malta-based Migrant Offshore Aid Station said it was shifting its rescue ship operations to assist the Rohingya Muslims. The aid group’s Phoenix ship had previously rescued migrants in the Mediterranean Sea. Last week, the Bangladesh coast guard confirmed some 11 children and nine women had died at sea while trying to cross into Bangladesh.

Some 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims face persecution in Burma, and the country has refused to grant them citizenship. In 2012, some 140,000 Rohingyas fled their homes after clashes with Buddhists. Myanmar’s leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who won a Nobel Peace Prize for her pro-democracy activism, has faced criticism for her inaction in the crisis. Her office last week accused aid workers of helping the “terrorists,” referring to the Rohingya militants. London’s The Guardian reported that aid groups such as Oxfam and Save the Children complained the Myanmar government had restricted aid efforts in the conflict area, leaving thousands of civilians without food, water, and medicine.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Maraud on Sunday traveled to Burma to “ask the government to stop and prevent violence and to provide protection to all citizens,” according to Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Several hundred Muslim women in Indonesia’s capital, Jarkata, gathered outside the Myanmar Embassy protesting the persecution and calling for government intervention. Some of the protesters shouted “Save Rohingya” and held banners that read, “Stop Muslim genocide in Myanmar!” Similar protests took place in Australia and Moscow.

U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned Kyi that the treatment of Rohingya Muslims was “besmirching” the country’s reputation. Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize recipient, on Twitter called for an end to the violence: “I am still waiting for my fellow Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same. The world is waiting and the Rohingya Muslims are waiting.”

Courtesy: WORLD News Service