Bangladesh calls on Myanmar to take back Rohingya refugees

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina condemns crackdown during visit to one of the camps where 370,000 people have taken refuge

Bangladesh’s prime minister has urged Myanmar to take back an estimated 370,000 Rohingya refugees who have fled across the border in recent weeks in response to a violent crackdown by the Burmese military.

Before inspecting one of the dozens of crowded refugee camps that have sprung up in the past three weeks in southern Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina said no words were enough to express her condemnation of Myanmar.

“They should stop [the violence],” she told the BBC. “The Myanmar government should have handled this situation patiently and [not] allowed the army of the law enforcement agencies to attack the common people.

“What are the crimes of the women, children, the innocent people? They are not responsible,” she said.

The UN security council will hold an urgent meeting on Wednesday to discuss what the organisation’s top human rights official has called a textbook example of ethnic cleansing, and on Tuesday the Trump administration joined the widespread international criticism of Myanmar’s crackdown.

“The massive displacement and victimisation of people, including large numbers of the ethnic Rohingya community and other minorities, shows that Burmese security forces are not protecting civilians,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, said in a statement.

Myanmar blames the latest unrest on Rohingya militants who attacked more than two dozen security posts on 25 August, triggering counter-insurgency operations that by some estimates have killed more than 3,000 people.

The UN said on Tuesday that 370,000 people, more than a third of the estimated Rohingya population in Myanmar, had spilled over the Bangladesh border to escape alleged extrajudicial killings and arson attacks by security forces.

Hasina said the Bangladeshi government would continue to support the Rohingya refugees, but that Myanmar needed to “take steps to take their nationals back”.

Myanmar, which does not recognise the Rohingya as Burmese citizens, has been lobbying Beijing, one of its main trading partners, to block any possible UN security council resolution. A Chinese foreign affairs ministry spokesman said on Tuesday that the country supported Myanmar’s efforts to uphold peace and stability in Rakhine state.

“We think the international community should support the efforts of Myanmar in safeguarding the stability of its national development,” Geng Shuang told a news briefing. “We hope order and the normal life there will be recovered as soon as possible.”

India, another regional ally that has previously expressed strong support for Myanmar, hardened its position at the weekend, urging the country’s leaders to handle the situation in Rakhine state “with restraint and maturity” and focus on the welfare of civilians.

Delhi nevertheless maintains it will press ahead with its own plans to deport an estimated 40,000 Rohingya who fled to India after earlier security crackdowns.


Michael Safi in Delhi

The GuardianTramp

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