Rohingya Muslims

Bangladesh accuses Myanmar of airspace violations and warns of consequences ahead of UN assembly

Yangon to investigation allegations and says Dhaka should have reached out to discuss concerns instead of issuing public statement

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 16 September, 2017, 4:41pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 16 September, 2017, 9:54pm

Bangladeshi authorities summoned Myanmar’s envoy to protest what they said were violations of their airspace amid an exodus of Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in western Myanmar.

Myanmar’s presidential spokesman on Saturday said there was no evidence of any trespassing and Dhaka should have reached out to discuss concerns instead of issuing public statements.

The Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Friday that Myanmar drones and helicopters flew into Bangladeshi airspace on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. It said a protest note was handed to Myanmar’s envoy on Friday evening. Bangladesh warned that the “provocative acts” could lead to consequences.

In Yangon, presidential spokesman Zaw Htay said while Myanmar’s military denied crossing into Bangladesh’s airspace, the matter is being investigated.

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She will seek immediate cessation of violence in Rakhine state in Myanmar
Spokesman for Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina

“We don’t know exactly if they released that statement for political reasons,” he said of Bangladesh’s protest.

He added that his country was “transporting rations for displaced people for emergency assistance” to areas close to the border and that Bangladesh “needs to understand that as well”.

More than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled what they described as indiscriminate attacks by security forces and Buddhist mobs in Rakhine state since August 25, when a Rohingya militant group attacked police posts, prompting the military to launch “clearance operations”.

The UN has described the violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar as ethnic cleansing – a term that describes an organised effort to rid an area of an ethnic group by displacement, deportation or killing.

Meanwhile, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina headed for the UN General Assembly to plead for global help with the Rohingya crisis. Her office said Hasina would demand more pressure on Myanmar during talks in New York.

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Conditions are worsening by the day in the border town of Cox’s Bazar where the latest influx has added to pressure on Rohingya camps already overwhelmed with 300,000 people from earlier refugee waves.

“Sheikh Hasina will raise the Rohingya issue during her speech at the UN General Assembly. She will seek immediate cessation of violence in Rakhine state in Myanmar and ask the UN secretary general to send a fact-finding missing to Rakhine,” spokesman for the prime minister, Nazrul Islam, said.

“She will also call the international community and the UN to put pressure on Myanmar for the repatriation of all the Rohingya refugees to their homeland in Myanmar,” he said.

The Bangladeshi government has put the army in charge of ferrying foreign relief aid from airports to Cox’s Bazar. It also plans to build 14,000 shelters, which it hopes will be enough for the hundreds of thousands of people. Each shelter can house six refugee families.

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Hasina has ordered the shelters to be erected within 10 days, said Bangladesh’s disaster management secretary.

Ethnic Rohingya have faced persecution and discrimination in Buddhist-majority Myanmar for decades and are denied citizenship, even though many families have lived there for generations.

The Myanmar government said hundreds have died, mostly Rohingya “terrorists”, and that 176 out of 471 Rohingya villages have been abandoned.

Rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have said that they have evidence that Myanmar troops were systematically targeting and setting Rohingya villages on fire over the past three weeks.

UN agencies fear continued violence in Myanmar may eventually drive up to 1 million Rohingya into Bangladesh.

Myanmar has insisted that Rohingya insurgents and fleeing villagers themselves are destroying their villages. It has offered no proof to back these charges.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse