Burma unrest: Bangladesh turns away Rakhine refugees
Published: 13th Jun 2012 03:32:29
Refugees fleeing unrest in Burma are being turned away by Bangladesh coast guards and border security.
On Tuesday, three boats carrying refugees were turned back, reports say. Officials say they had earlier sent another 11 boats back.
Meanwhile, unrest continues in Rakhine state with reports of gunshots and buildings torched.
The area in western Burma has seen deadly violence between Buddhists and Muslims since last week.
At least seven people have been killed since Friday, but one report puts the number of dead at 25.
Reports on the number of Muslim Rohingya refugees fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh vary, but as many as 1,500 are said to have been turned back in recent days.
"We are keeping our eyes open so that nobody can enter Bangladesh illegally," a police official told the Associated Press.
"Women on the boats said they have lost husbands and relatives in the violence. Their houses were torched," a Border Guard Bangladesh official told AFP news.
One man reportedly died in a hospital in Chittagong after he was allegedly shot by Burma forces while fleeing.
The UN Refugee Agency has appealed to Dhaka to keep its border open and provide humanitarian aid. However, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said it was not in the country's interest to accept new refugees.
An estimated 300,000 Rohingya refugees are already living in Bangladesh.
The recent violence in Rakhine state flared after the murder of a Buddhist woman last month, followed by an attack on a bus carrying Muslims.
According to reports, it began on Friday in the town of Maungdaw, spreading to state capital Sittwe and neighbouring villages. President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency there late on Sunday night.
Rakhine state is named after the ethnic Rakhine Buddhist majority, but also has a sizeable Muslim population, including the Rohingyas.
The Rohingyas are a Muslim group and are stateless, as Burma considers them to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Activists have criticised Burma's government for imposing a state of emergency, which paves the way for troops to take control of the western state.
The pressure group Human Rights Watch has accused the Burmese government of, in effect, handing over control of Rakhine state to the military, which it says has a history of brutality against both Buddhists and Muslims.
Activists have asked that journalists, aid workers and diplomats be allowed into the area.
A nominally civilian government was elected in Burma in 2010 and, in April this year, opposition politicians led by Aung San Suu Kyi entered Burma's parliament following historic by-elections.
However, the government is still dominated by the military and concerns over political repression and human rights abuses continue.
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Burma unrest: Bangladesh turns away Rakhine refugees. [Online] (Updated 13 Jun 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news.php/1434246-Burma-unrest-Bangladesh-turns-away-Rakhine-refugees [Accessed 21st May 2013]
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