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Iran Press TV

More Rohingya Muslims flee Myanmar as Bangladesh prepares to start repatriation

Iran Press TV

Thu Jan 18, 2018 03:28PM

More than 100 persecuted Rohingya Muslims have crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar over the past 24 hours, raising doubts about plans to send back thousands of refugees who have already fled a brutal crackdown.

A Bangladeshi intelligence official in the capital Dhaka said on Thursday that scores more were waiting to cross the Naf river that forms the border between Bangladesh and Myanmar.

One boat crossed the river carrying 53 people early Wednesday, and another boat arrived from the Bay of Bengal with 60 people Thursday morning, he added.

The new refugees said they paid between $20-$30 a person for the night-time trips on rickety boats to Teknaf, in the southernmost part of Bangladesh.

Those waiting on the Myanmar side to cross were stuck there because they did not have enough money to pay the boatmen.

The latest refugees say army operations are continuing in troubled Rakhine State. They said they came from Sein Yin Pyin village in Buthidaung district, and escaped because they feared to be picked up by Myanmar soldiers if they left their homes for work.

The refugees also said a group of soldiers caught around 200 of them sleeping in the forest on their journey to Bangladesh and looted them of their belongings and money.

"First their men looted us, and then they stopped us again to ask why we were leaving," said Umme Habiba. "Day by day, things were getting worse," he added.

Fayazur Rahman, a 33-year-old laborer from southern Buthidaung, said a dozen soldiers barged into his home two weeks ago and sexually assaulted his 18-year-old sister. "We left because we were scared."

Mohammad Ismail and four others said two weeks ago they saw a dead body hanging by a rope in a forest where Ismail used to collect wood to sell at the market.

"After this I never went to the forest again, and all my money was gone, so my family had nothing to eat for three days," he said.

Over two dozen refugees that media outlets interviewed recounted a similar version of events.

This comes as Bangladeshi authorities prepare to start repatriating next week some of the Rohingya who have escaped the Myanmar military crackdown since late August.

Bangladesh and Myanmar said on Tuesday they had agreed to complete the return of the refugees within two years but rights groups and the UN have voiced serious reservations about starting the process.

The UN says nearly 655,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Rakhine for Bangladesh since violence intensified last August.

Since August 25, 2017, Myanmar's troops have been committing killings and rapes, making arbitrary arrests, and carrying out mass arson attacks to destroy houses in Rakhine.

Only in its first month, the military clampdown killed some 6,700 Rohingya Muslims, including more than 700 children, according to the international medical charity Doctors Without Borders.

Myanmar brands more than one million Rohingya Muslims in the country as "illegal immigrants" from Bangladesh, refusing to accept them as citizens despite the fact that they have lived in the country for many generations.

The Rohingya are considered by the UN as the "most persecuted minority group in the world."

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