BANGLADESH (AFP) – Hundreds of desperate Rohingya Muslims are still pouring over the Myanmar border into Bangladesh every week, bringing harrowing accounts of torture and murder, six months after a military crackdown sparked the massive refugee crisis.
One of the recent arrivals, Nur Mohammad, said his village in Myanmar’s Rakhine state was surrounded by Buddhist vigilantes for days before they were allowed to leave.
“The Moghs (Buddhists) torched our houses, kept us confined and starving,” Mohammad said. “Villages are razed to the ground. We walked for days through mountains to reach here.”
Thirty-year-old Enayetullah was among the 200 Rohingya who crossed the Naf river into Bangladesh on Friday.
Most of his neighbours had left earlier, part of a 700,000-strong Rohingya exodus since August 25, leaving behind desolate and burned-out villages. He also shared that security forces have abducted young Rohingya men in the past weeks.Enayetullah also accused Myanmar security forces of torching his shop, prompting him and his three brothers to flee their home in Mognapara village near the town of Buthidaung.
The military crackdown in the north of Rakhine has been termed “ethnic cleansing” by the United Nations and the United States.
While Bangladesh and Myanmar talk of repatriating the refugees, the influx continues. Some days 200 people cross the border, on others a few dozen make the perilous journey. More than 2,500 have entered the overflowing camps in Bangladesh so far in February.
Hundreds of Rohingya villages have been torched in the crackdown, according to refugees and monitoring groups. Human Rights Watch said Friday that another 55 villages have been razed since November.
The Rohingya have been systematically stripped of their legal rights in mainly Buddhist Myanmar in recent decades and face rampant discrimination.
Myanmar denies seeking to eradicate the minority but refuses to give UN investigators access to an area where thousands of Rohingya are believed to have been killed.
In November Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement to repatriate some 750,000 Rohingya over two years. Last week Dhaka sent a list of 8,000 names to Myanmar for verification.
But Rohingya leaders bluntly refuse to return. The UN says anyone who goes back must be a volunteer, while Myanmar shows no sign of accepting the Rohingya as full citizens.