SHAFAQNA – Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have crossed into Bangladesh since Myanmar announced a military buildup in violence-hit Rakhine state earlier this month, according to community leaders.
Rohingya leaders in Bangladesh told AFP news agency on Wednesday that at least 3,500 had arrived in recent weeks, piling pressure onto already overcrowded refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazaar area near the Naf river that divides the two countries.
That is despite stepped-up patrols by Bangladeshi border and coast guards, who said this week they had pushed back a boat carrying 31 Rohingya, including children.
“In the Balukhali camp alone, some 3,000 Rohingya arrived from their villages in Rakhine,” said Abdul Khaleq, referring to the camp nearest the river, where most of the migrants stay when they first arrive.
Kamal Hossain, a Rohingya elder in another, camp, said nearly 700 families had arrived in Bangladesh in the past 11 days.
Many were sleeping in the open because there was no more space in the camps, he said.
On August 12, authorities in Myanmar sent hundreds of troops into Rakhine in to boost security, drawing criticism from UN special rapporteur Yanghee Lee, who warned the deployment was “cause for major concern”.
Rakhine, in northern Myanmar, has been gripped by violence since October.
Myanmar authorities have reportedly cracked down on the Rohingya community, which the United Nations believes may amount to ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority group.
Deen Mohammad, another Rohingya man who entered Bangladesh on August 13, said Muslim villagers in Rakhine were not allowed to visit neighbours without prior permission from the army.
The 45-year-old farmer said he left home with his family after the army killed his 23-year-old son for travelling to a nearby village.