BANGLADESH, on Wednesday, protested the huge influx of people fleeing violence in Myanmar and raised concerns with Myanmar’s government about reports that its military was placing land mines along the countries’ shared border.
Bangladesh “demanded immediate measures from Myanmar to de-escalate the violence”, the Bangladesh Foreign Ministry said.
Manjurul Karim Khan Chowdhury, the Foreign Ministry’s director-general for Southeast Asia, issued the protest to Aung Myint, chargé d’affaires of the Myanmar Embassy in Dhaka.
Myanmar’s government did not issue an immediate response. Zaw Htay, a spokesman for its de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, questioned who was responsible for the land mines in comments this week to Reuters, which first reported Bangladesh’s allegations. “Who can surely say those mines were not laid by the terrorists?” he asked.
More than 146,000 people are believed to have crossed from Myanmar into Bangladesh since late last month, according to the United Nations.
Nearly all are ethnic Rohingya. The surge across the border followed the Aug 25 attacks by a Rohingya militant group on police stations and a military base in the Rakhine state.
Rohingya witnesses who had reached Bangladesh said the military and vigilante mobs of ethnic Rakhine had torched dozens of villages and sprayed bullets at fleeing residents. Satellite photos showed fires in the area, which is unusual given the current monsoon conditions, Human Rights Watch said.
At least 15 members of the Myanmar security forces and 370 members of the militant group had been killed, the government said.
The violence has touched off an exodus of desperate people, carrying children and scant possessions as they cross the border on foot. Land mines have increased their risk.
One woman was injured in a land mine explosion on Monday, and two siblings were hurt in another blast on Tuesday, said Major Iqbal Ahmed of the Border Guard Bangladesh. Another two children were injured when a group of Rohingya spotted land mines and threw something to set them off, he said.
The explosions occurred on Myanmar’s side of the border, Ahmed said. He would not comment on whether the mines were laid by the Myanmar military.
At the government-run Sadar Hospital in Cox’s Bazar, some Rohingya who had been admitted “had injuries consistent with land mine explosions”, said Dr Shaheen Abdur Rahman Chowdhury, the resident medical officer.
One of the injured, Hobaid, who uses one name, was admitted with a gunshot wound and land mine injuries.
He was hurt last Friday in Maungdaw Township in Myanmar, near the Bangladeshi border crossing of Tumbru, his brother Kojail said. He said three men were killed and four were injured when the land mine exploded.
“What is happening to our people is monstrous,” said their father, Aktar Hussan, 70. “We don’t know if things will ever get better. All we can do is to rely on Allah.”
The Myanmar military has, for decades, been accused of using land mines in conflicts with ethnic armies. Myanmar is one of 35 countries that have not joined an international treaty banning anti-personnel mines. Rebel militias, like the Kachin Independence Army in Myanmar’s north, have also been accused of using land mines. Civilians are often the victims.
In addition to land mines, people trying to cross the border face other dangers. Last week, at least 46 Rohingya died when their boats sank while crossing a river between the two countries.
Even for those who have crossed safely into Bangladesh, grim conditions await. The Bangladesh government estimated that 400,000 Rohingya refugees were in the country before the latest influx began.
This has put aid groups under extreme pressure, and camps for refugees at a “breaking point” because of a lack of space, Duniya Aslam Khan, spokesman for the United Nations’ refugee agency, said on Tuesday.
“Those who have made it to Bangladesh are in poor condition,” she said. “Most have walked for days from their villages. They are hungry, weak and sick.”
The Rohingya who remain in Rakhine face an even bleaker picture, aid groups say, with dwindling food and continuing military raids on their villages. The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, the Rohingya militant group that claimed responsibility for the Aug 25 attacks, had also blocked some men and boys from leaving, refugees in Bangladesh said.
Myanmar government on Wednesday said more than 26,000 people had been displaced in Rakhine state, but this did not include Rohingya civilians.
The government has denied that its military is attacking civilians in Rakhine state. Suu Kyi said on Tuesday that security forces were carrying out a campaign against terrorists while protecting residents of the area.
“We know very well, more than most, what it means to be deprived of human rights and democratic protection,” she said during a phone call with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, according to her office. “So we make sure that all the people in our country are entitled to protection of their rights ...”
Erdogan, who last week called the violence against the Rohingya “genocide”, told her the crisis was rousing public anger, Turkish news media reported. Turkey later announced it would send aid to Rakhine state.
Governments from other predominantly Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Malaysia and Indonesia, have expressed concern. Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate, also confronted Suu Kyi on Twitter. NYT