Muangdaw (August 30, 2017): At least 18,500 Rohingya have crossed into Bangladesh since fighting erupted in Myanmar’s neighbouring Rakhine state six days ago.
Plumes of smoke billowed from several burning villages in the worst-hit section of the state, while the violence showed little sign of abating despite security sweeps by Myanmar’s police and troops.
The streets of Maungdaw — northern Rakhine’s largest town — were virtually deserted as fires flickered among charred remains of houses and the occasional burst of gunfire echoed in the distance.
The clashes began on Friday after militants from Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority community staged deadly surprise raids on police posts.
At least 110 people, including 11 state officials, have been confirmed dead and thousands of Rohingya have poured across the border to Bangladesh despite Dhaka’s attempts to stop them.
An estimated 6,000 Rohingya on Tuesday massed at the “zero line” border with Bangladesh, days after the area came under mortar and machine gun fire by Myanmar security forces.
The Rohingya, the world’s largest stateless minority and subject to severe restrictions on their movements, are barred from officially crossing.
Bangladeshi authorities on Wednesday toughened patrols in a bid to prevent more arrivals in a country that already hosts an estimated 400,000 Rohingya, albeit in abject conditions.
Rohingya have sneaked across the land border in large number or swum the Naf River which marks part of the frontier.
But tragedy befell some of them. The bodies of two Rohingya women and two children washed up on Bangladeshi soil on Wednesday, an official there told AFP, drowned after their rickety boat capsized.