Bangladeshi PM calls displaced Rohingya sheltering in her country "hungry, distressed, and hopeless"
Leader says that neighboring Myanmar is seeding its border with landmines to prevent Rohingya returning
The Bangladeshi Prime Minister has delivered a sharp judgment on neighboring Myanmar’s treatment of Rohingya Muslims, hundreds of thousands of whom have fled across the border to Bangladesh in recent weeks to escape violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
Addressing the UN General Assembly (UNGA) late Thursday, Bangladesh’s leader, Sheikh Hasina, said she did so with a “heavy heart.”
“I have come here just after seeing the hungry, distressed, and hopeless Rohingyas from Myanmar,” she said from the podium.
“We are currently sheltering over 800,000 forcibly displaced Rohingyas from the Rakhine State of Myanmar.”
Myanmar considers the Rohingya illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, despite the fact that many Rohingya families have lived in Rakhine for generations. Bangladesh considers them Burmese. As a result, they are stateless.
More than 430,000 people have fled since August 25, Hasina said, quoting figures from the International Organization for Migration (IOM).
More than half of them are children who’ve made a difficult journey across the Naf River before arriving in muddy, overcrowded camps around Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.
The Rohingya have brought with them stories of death and destruction, including multiple accounts of rape and the murder of children. Satellite photos from Human Rights Watch show entire villages razed to the ground.
The UN’s human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has labeled Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
The government of Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, blames terrorists for starting the recent violence, alleging in state media that Rohingya militants killed 12 security officers in border post attacks in late August.
That incident sparked what the Burmese military has characterized as anti-terror raids. Eyewitnesses and rights groups say that government troops have instead engaged in indiscriminate killing of Rohingya and the destruction of their homes and villages.
Hasina used the address to call for the creation of “safe zones that could be created inside Myanmar under UN supervision” to protect Rohingya.
“These people must be able to return to their homeland in safety, security and dignity,” she said.
The prime minister said that the government of Nobel peace prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi was actively trying to prevent Rohingya from crossing the border. As State Counselor, Suu Kyi has limited powers, as the Constitution gives ultimate oversight on defense matters to the Myanmar military.
“We are horrified to see that Myanmar authorities are laying landmines along their stretch of the borders,” Hasina said, calling on the neighboring country’s government to allow the Rohingya to be repatriated free of fear of persecution.
Yanghee Lee, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Human Rights for Myanmar, said earlier in September that at least 1,000 people had been killed in the violence, though she said that figure is “very likely an underestimate.”
“Figures are difficult to verify because of lack of access to the affected areas,” she said.
On Wednesday the US State Department announced that the US will provide humanitarian aid worth nearly $32 million to Rohingya who have fled violence in recent weeks.
The funding “reflects the US commitment to help address the unprecedented magnitude of suffering and urgent humanitarian needs of the Rohingya people,” said the State Department’s Acting Assistant Secretary Simon Henshaw.
CNN’s Stella Ko contributed reporting.