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Rohingya crisis: 6,700 killed in attacks in Maynmar, says MSF

Between August and September 2017, over 6,700 Rohingya Muslims were killed, figures believed to be a 'conservative estimate' far exceeding Myanmar's official death toll of 400

14 December 2017, 9:46am
Over 730 of the dead included children under the age of five (Photo: Amnesty International)
Over 730 of the dead included children under the age of five (Photo: Amnesty International)
Over 6,700 Rohingya Muslims, including 730 children under the age of five, were killed between August and September, when violence broke out in the northern Rakhine state, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres.

The figures were released on Thursday by the humanitarian agency, and are believed to be a somewhat “conservative estimate”, far exceeding Myanmar’s official death toll of 400.

“The numbers of deaths are likely to be an underestimation, as we have not surveyed all refugee settlements in Bangladesh and because the surveys don’t account for the families who never made it out of Myanmar,” said Sidney Wong, MSF’s medical director.

The majority of the people killed (69%) were shot, while others were burned and beaten to death.

“We heard reports of entire families who perished after they were locked inside their homes, while they were set alight,” said Wong.

Over 640,000 Rohingya fled the state since August, when soldiers, local militias and police burned their villages to the ground. They have also been accused of gang-raping women and children, and slaughtering civilians.

The violence has been condemned worldwide, calling it an “ethnic cleansing”, an allegation Myanmar strongly denies.

Officials blamed “extremist terrorists” belonging to a new Rohingya militant group.

Some of the worst violence is believed to have taken place in Tula Toli, in a village in Maungdaw township, where according to survivors, residents were round up on riverbanks and shot as they attempted to get away.

Survivors believe that thousands may have died in Tula Toli alone.

The death toll appears to tally with reports from numerous journalists and human rights groups.

“The latest report adds to a long list of harrowing accounts that Human Rights Watch has collected from Rohingya refugees who fled the campaign of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity in northern Rakhine state,” said Rich Weir, Asia researcher for Human Rights Watch.

“The numbers should shock the conscience of the international community and stir them to action. Those responsible must be held to account and sanctions must be imposed on those who are behind these atrocities,” he said.

Rohingya migrants collect rain water at a temporary shelter in Myanmar's Rakhine state (Photo: BBC)
Rohingya migrants collect rain water at a temporary shelter in Myanmar's Rakhine state (Photo: BBC)
Bangladesh and Myanmar came to an agreement to send Rohingya people back to the Rakhine state, in a deal that was criticised by human rights groups as lacking safety for the persecuted minority.

“Currently, people are still fleeing from Myanmar to Bangladesh and those who do manage to cross the border still report being subject to violence in recent weeks,” said Wong.

“With very few independent aid groups able to access Maungdaw district in Rakhine, we fear for the fate of Rohingya people who are still there.”

The government of Myanmar insists that the reports of mass murder and rape are fabrications, invented by the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya now living in refugee camps in Bangladesh.

In addition, two Reuters journalists who were investigating the events were arrested this week.

The journalists Wa Lone and Kyaw Soe Oo were detained while carrying maps and documents, relating to the region, after meeting police officers for dinner in Myanmar’s commercial capital of Yangon.

The detentions were referred to as “highly irregular” by the US embassy and the Myanmar military filed charges against the journalists under the Official Secrets Act, which carries a maximum prison term of 14 years.