Tales of horrific suffering

MANAGED TO LEAVE: Mohammad Ayaz and his son, Mohammad Osman, who are the two survivors of his family, at a refugee camp at Ukhiya in southern Cox’s Bazar district yesterday Picture: AFP
MANAGED TO LEAVE: Mohammad Ayaz and his son, Mohammad Osman, who are the two survivors of his family, at a refugee camp at Ukhiya in southern Cox’s Bazar district yesterday
Picture: AFP

Refugees flee gang rape and killings in Myanmar

Horrifying stories of gang rape, torture and murder are emerging from among the thousands of desperate Rohingya migrants who have pushed into Bangladesh in the past few days to escape unfolding chaos in Myanmar.

Up to 30 000 of the impoverished ethnic group have fled their homes, the United Nations says, after troops poured into the narrow strip where they live earlier this month.

Bangladesh has resisted international appeals to open its border to avert a humanitarian crisis, instead telling Myanmar it must do more to prevent the stateless Muslim minority from entering.

Yesterday, Mohammad Ayaz told how troops had attacked his village and killed his wife.

Cradling his two-year-old son, he said soldiers had killed at least 300 men in the village market and gang-raped dozens of women before setting fire to about 300 houses, Muslimowned shops and a mosque.

“They shot dead my wife . . . She was 25 and seven months’ pregnant,” Ayaz said.

“I took refuge at a canal with my son, who was hit with a rifle butt.” Ayaz sold his watch and shoes to pay for the journey and has taken shelter along with at least 200 of his neighbours at a camp for unregistered Rohingya refugees.

Many of those seeking shelter in Bangladesh say they have walked for days and used rickety boats to cross into the neighbouring country, where hundreds of thousands of registered Rohingya refugees have been living for decades.

The Rohingya are loathed by many in majority Buddhist Myanmar, who see them as illegal immigrants even though many of them have lived in Myanmar for generations.

They are denied citizenship and smothered by restrictions on movement and work.

Bangladesh said late on Wednesday it had summoned the Myanmar ambassador to express deep concern.

“Despite our border guards’ sincere effort to prevent the influx, thousands of distressed Myanmar citizens . . . continue to cross the border into Bangladesh,” it said.

“Thousands more have been reported to be gathering at the border crossing.”

Since the violence flared up, Bangladesh’s secular government has been under pressure to open its border to prevent a humanitarian disaster.

Instead, Bangladesh border guards have intensified patrols and coastguards have deployed extra ships.

Officials say they have stopped about 1 000 Rohingya at the border since Monday.

Farmer Deen Mohammad, 50, was among the thousands who evaded patrols, sneaking into the Bangladeshi border town of Teknaf four days ago with his wife, two of their children and three other families.

“They [Myanmar’s military] took my two boys, aged nine and 12, when they entered my village. I don’t know what happened to them,” he said.

“They took women into rooms and locked them from inside. Up to 50 women and girls of our village were tortured and raped.”

Jannat Ara said she had fled with neighbours after her father was arrested and her 17-year-old sister disappeared, who she believes was raped and killed by the army.

“We heard that they tortured her to death. I don’t know what happened to my mother,” Ara, who entered Bangladesh on Tuesday, said.

Rohingya community leaders said hundreds of families had taken shelter in camps in the Bangladeshi border towns of Teknaf and Ukhia, many hiding for fear they would be sent back to Myanmar.

Police on Wednesday detained 70 Rohingya, including women and children, who they said would be sent back across the border.

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