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45,000 Rohingya Reportedly Fled To Areas Near Bangladesh Border Amid Fighting: UN Rights Office

24.05.2024 14:12

Spokesperson says office documented renewed attacks on Rohingya civilians in northern Rakhine, burning of Buthidaung town.

The UN human rights office on Friday said that an estimated 45,000 Rohingya reportedly fled to areas near the Bangladesh border amid the ongoing fighting.

"We are receiving frightening and disturbing reports from northern Rakhine State in Myanmar of the impacts of the conflict on civilian lives and property. Some of the most serious allegations concern incidents of killing of Rohingya civilians and the burning of their property," spokesperson Liz Throssell told a UN press briefing in Geneva.

Throssell stressed that tens of thousands of civilians have been displaced in recent days by the fighting in Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships, and added: "An estimated 45,000 Rohingya have reportedly fled to an area on the Naf River near the border with Bangladesh, seeking protection."

Noting that over one million Rohingya are already in Bangladesh, having fled past purges, she said the human rights chief Volker Turk calls on Bangladesh and other states to provide effective protection to those seeking it, in line with international law, and to ensure international solidarity with Bangladesh in hosting Rohingya refugees in Myanmar.

"Testimonies, satellite images, and online videos and pictures indicate that Buthidaung town has been largely burned," the spokesperson said, adding that according to the information received by the office, the burning started last Friday, two days after the military had retreated from the town and the Arakan Army claimed to have taken full control.

Throssell said that the human rights office is corroborating information received about who is responsible.

"One survivor described seeing dozens of dead bodies as he fled the town. Another survivor said that he was among a group of displaced numbering in the tens of thousands, who were blocked by the Arakan Army, on the road west linking Buthidaung to Maungdaw town," she said.

"Survivors recounted that the Arakan Army had abused them and extorted money from them as they made their way to Rohingya villages around 10 to 15 kilometers south of the town, where Rohingya already displaced by earlier attacks on villages had previously sought shelter," she added, underlining that Rohingya in these areas have, for weeks, described sheltering "with families they do not know, without enough food to feed their families."

She also noted that the office documented renewed attacks on Rohingya civilians by both the Arakan Army and military in northern Rakhine State during the weeks leading up to the burning of Buthidaung.

Those attacks include, she said, aerial strikes, shooting at unarmed fleeing villagers, beheadings, disappearances, and burnings of homes.

'Serious, present risk' of expansion of violence

Throssell warned that there is a clear and present risk of expansion of violence resulting in victimization and killing of civilians.

"We see clear and present risks of a serious expansion of violence as the battle for neighboring Maungdaw town has begun -- where the military maintains outposts and where a large Rohingya community lives, including hundreds of displaced Rohingya who moved to town from villages seeking safety," she said.

She added: "In this appalling situation, civilians are once more victimized, killed, their properties destroyed and looted, their demands for safety and security ignored, and they are again forced to flee their homes in a recurring nightmare of suffering."

Turk urges an immediate end to the violence, and for all civilians to be protected without any distinction based on identity, the spokesperson stressed.

"Prompt and unhindered humanitarian relief must be allowed to flow, and all parties must comply fully and unconditionally with international law – including measures already ordered by the International Court of Justice, for the protection of Rohingya," she added.

Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.

They have been residing in congested refugee camps in Bangladesh's southeastern Cox's Bazar.

The Arakan Army, an ethnic armed organization based in Rakhine State, suspended a cease-fire agreement in November last year that had been in place since the February 2021 military coup. -

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