Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims fleeing a surge in violence in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine are stranded on the Bangladesh border.
Rohingya community leaders said on Tuesday that Bangladeshi border guards pushed back the Rohingya Muslims, mostly women and children, to the Myanmar side on Monday.
“We heard they are 200 in number. They are mostly women and children, who were only seeking a safe place to stay. They have no homes to go back,” AFP cited one of the Rohingya leaders from a refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Teknaf border town.
Sources said the stranded Rohingya Muslims had crossed the Naf River, which divides the two countries, by boats in the early hours of Monday.
Bangladesh’s border guard spokesman, Major Abu Russell Siddique, confirmed that dozens of Rohingya Muslims were immediately sent back by Bangladeshi forces. The official, however, denied the community leaders’ claim that the Rohingya, who were pushed back were victims of recent violence in Rakhine.
Mohammad Towhid, 19, who had managed to cross into Bangladesh by avoiding the border guards, said Myanmar’s soldiers had shot dead his sister.
“They (Myanmar army) shot dead my sister before my eyes. I hid underneath heaps of cow dung during the attack. As the night fell, I rushed to the border,” Towhid said, adding, “I left my mother alone at home. I don’t know whether she survived or not.”
He added that Myanmar’s troops had torched hundreds of Rohingya homes over the past days.
Rakhine, home to a large number of Rohingya Muslims, has been under a military lockdown since an alleged attack on the country’s border guards on October 9 left nine police officers dead. The government accused the Rohingya of being behind the assault.
According to the UN, the Rohingya are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
The government denies full citizenship to the 1.1 million-strong Rohingya population, branding them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. However, many believe the Rohingya are a community of ancient lineage in Myanmar.
[This article was published on The Malaysian Mirror and reproduced here with permission.]