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Thousands of Rohingya Flee to Bangladesh over Fear for their Lives | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Rohingya women and men gather at the Thel-Chaung displacement camp in Sittwe on November 8, 2015. Myat Thu / AFP

Dhaka- The scale of human suffering of the Muslim Rohingya minority in Myanmar has been rising, as desperate people like Mohammad Ayaz told how troops attacked his village and killed his pregnant wife.

Cradling his two-year-old son, he said troops killed at least 300 men in the village market and gang-raped dozens of women before setting fire to around 300 houses, Muslim-owned shops and the mosque where he served as imam.

“They shot dead my wife, Jannatun Naim. She was 25 and seven months pregnant. I took refuge at a canal with my two-year-old son, who was hit by a rifle butt,” Ayaz told Agence France Presse.

Jannat Ara said she fled with neighbors after her father was arrested and her 17-year-old sister disappeared.

“We heard that they (Myanmar’s army) tortured her to death. I don’t know what happened to my mother,” said Ara, who entered Bangladesh this week.

At least 10,000 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh in recent weeks after fleeing violence in Myanmar, the United Nations said on Wednesday.

An estimated 30,000 Rohingya have been forced to leave their homes since a bloody crackdown by the army in the western state of Rakhine.

Bangladesh has stepped up patrols on the border to try to stop them from entering, but last week it said thousands had flooded into the country, many with nothing but the clothes they were wearing.

“Based on reports by various humanitarian agencies, we estimate that there could be 10,000 new arrivals in recent weeks,” said Vivian Tan, a spokeswoman for the U.N. refugee agency in Bangkok.

“The situation is fast changing and the actual number could be much higher.”

Myanmar is seeking the ethnic cleansing of the Muslim Rohingya minority from its territory, a senior U.N. official has told the BBC.

Armed forces have been killing Rohingya in Rakhine state, forcing many to flee to Bangladesh, said John McKissick of the U.N. refugee agency.

Security forces have been “killing men, shooting them, slaughtering children, raping women, burning and looting houses, forcing these people to cross the river” into Bangladesh, McKissick said.

“Now it’s very difficult for the Bangladeshi government to say the border is open because this would further encourage the government of Myanmar to continue the atrocities and push them out until they have achieved their ultimate goal of ethnic cleansing of the Muslim minority in Myanmar,” he added.

Myanmar has denied allegations of abuse. Presidential spokesman Zaw Htay says the international media is misreporting what is going on.

Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi is in a delicate position. She is Myanmar’s de facto leader after she won last November in Myanmar’s first openly contested election in 25 years.

So for the last six weeks Suu Kyi has been avoiding journalists and press conferences.

When forced, she has commented that the military in Rakhine is operating according to the “rule of law.”