Rohingya facing violence and hunger continue to cross into Bangladesh

Food shortages are forcing thousands more Rohingya across the border into Bangladesh, a dangerous journey that some refugees do not survive.

Zohra Bensemra/TRX Images of the Day/Reuters
Rohingya refugees cross into Bangladesh's Cox Bazar at the border town of Palang Khali on Oct.16. Thousands more refugees continue to flee violence and growing food shortages in their hometowns.

Hungry, destitute, and scared, thousands of new Rohingya refugees crossed the border into Bangladesh from Myanmar (Burma) early on Monday, Reuters witnesses said, fleeing hunger and attacks by Buddhist mobs that the United Nations has called ethnic cleansing.

Wading through waist-deep water with children strapped to their sides, the refugees told Reuters they had walked through bushes and forded monsoon-swollen streams for days.

A seemingly never-ending flow entered Bangladesh near the village of Palongkhali. Many were injured, with the elderly carried on makeshift stretchers, while women balanced household items, such as pots, rice sacks, and clothing, on their heads.

"We couldn't step out of the house for the last month because the military were looting people," said Mohammad Shoaib, who wore a yellow vest and balanced jute bags of food and aluminum pots on a bamboo pole. "They started firing on the village. So we escaped into another."

"Day by day, things kept getting worse, so we started moving towards Bangladesh. Before we left, I went back near my village to see my house, and the entire village was burnt down," Mr. Shoaib added.

They joined about 536,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled Myanmar since Aug. 25, when coordinated Rohingya insurgent attacks sparked a ferocious military response, with the fleeing people accusing security forces of arson, killings, and rape.

Myanmar rejects accusations of ethnic cleansing and has labelled the militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army who launched the attacks as terrorists, who have killed civilians and burnt villages.

The European Union said on Monday it would suspend invitations to Myanmar's army commander-in-chief and other senior generals "in the light of the disproportionate use of force carried out by the security forces."

A statement issued after a meeting of EU foreign ministers also called for a thorough investigation of "credible allegations of serious human rights violations and abuses."

Another boat sinks

Not everyone made it to Bangladesh alive on Monday.

Several miles to the south of Palongkhali, a boat carrying scores of refugees sank at dawn, killing at least 12 and leaving 35 missing. There were 21 survivors, Bangladesh authorities said.

"So far 12 bodies, including six children and four women, have been recovered," said police official Moinuddin Khan.

Bangladesh border guards told Reuters the boat sank because it was overloaded with refugees, who pay exorbitant fees to cross the Naf River, a natural border with Myanmar in the Cox's Bazar region of Bangladesh.

The sinking came about a week after another boat capsized in the estuary on the river, which has become a graveyard for dozens of Muslim refugees.

Food, aid restricted

Refugees who survived the perilous journey said they were driven out by hunger because food markets in Myanmar's western Rakhine State have been shut and aid deliveries restricted. They also reported attacks by the military and Rakhine Buddhist mobs.

The influx will worsen the unprecedented humanitarian emergency unfolding in Cox's Bazar, where aid workers are battling to provide refugees with food, clean water, and shelter.

On Monday, the Red Cross opened a field hospital as big as two football fields, with 60 beds, three wards, an operating theatre, a delivery suite with a maternity ward and a psychosocial support unit.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya had already been in Bangladesh after fleeing previous spasms of violence in Myanmar, where they have long been denied citizenship and faced curbs on their movements and access to basic services.

Monday's EU move to shun further contacts with Myanmar's Army top brass comes after officials told Reuters the European bloc and the United States were considering targeted sanctions against military leaders.

The action announced by Brussels is largely symbolic, though the EU said it may consider further measures.

Western governments, who have invested politically in Myanmar's democratic transition, are wary of doing anything that would hurt the wider economy or destabilise already tense ties between civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and the military.

The powerful Army chief, Min Aung Hlaing, told the United States ambassador in Myanmar last week that the exodus of Rohingya, whom he called non-native "Bengalis," was exaggerated.

But despite Myanmar's denials and assurances that aid was on its way to the north of violence-torn Rakhine State, thousands more starving people were desperate to leave.

"We fled from our home because we had nothing to eat in my village," said Jarhni Ahlong, a Rohingya man from the southern region of Buthidaung, who had been stranded on the Myanmar side of the Naf for a week, waiting to cross.

From the thousands gathered there awaiting an opportunity to escape, about 400 paid roughly $50 each to flee on nine or 10 boats on Monday morning, he added.

"I think if we go to Bangladesh we can get food," he said. 

This story was reported by Reuters. 

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Rohingya facing violence and hunger continue to cross into Bangladesh
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today