News ID: 202506
Published: 0243 GMT October 16, 2017

Hunger drives thousands more Rohingya to flee Myanmar

Hunger drives thousands more Rohingya to flee Myanmar

Hungry, destitute and scared, thousands of new Rohingya refugees crossed the border into Bangladesh from Myanmar early on Monday, fleeing violence and hunger that the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing.

The new arrivals said they were driven out by hunger because food markets in Myanmar’s western Rakhine state had been shut down and aid deliveries restricted, the Guardian reported.

They also reported attacks by the military and Rakhine Buddhist mobs. Wading through waist-deep water with children strapped to their sides, the Rohingya said they had walked for days through bushes and monsoon-swollen streams from Myanmar’s Buthidaung region before reaching the border.

A seemingly never-ending line of people entered Bangladesh near the village of Palang Khali. Many were injured, with the elderly lying on makeshift stretchers, and women balancing family belongings — pots, rice sacks, clothing — on their heads.

“We couldn’t step out of the house for the last month because the military were looting people. They started firing on the village. So we escaped into another village,” said Mohammad Shoaib, 29, who was balancing his jute bags, filled with some food and aluminum pots, on a bamboo pole.

“Day by day things kept getting worse, so we started moving towards Bangladesh. Before we left, I went back near my village to see my house, and the entire village was burned down,” Shoaib said.

They walked to join an estimated 536,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar since August 25, when coordinated attacks, which were blamed on the Rohingya,  sparked a ferocious military response, with fleeing people accusing security forces of arson, killings and rape. 

Myanmar rejects accusations of ethnic cleansing and has labelled the attackers as terrorists who have killed civilians and burned down villages.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya were already in Bangladesh after fleeing previous episodes of violence in Myanmar, where they have long been denied citizenship and faced restrictions on their movements and access to basic services. 

Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, has pledged accountability for human rights abuses and says the country will accept back refugees who can prove they were residents of Myanmar.

The US and the EU have been considering targeted sanctions against Myanmar’s military leaders, diplomats and officials said, although they are wary of action that could destabilize the country’s transition to democracy.

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