UN: Bangladesh Should Open Borders to People Fleeing Burma

Posted June 15th, 2012 at 11:10 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The U.N. refugee agency is urging Bangladesh to open its borders to people fleeing an outbreak of violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and ethnic Rohingya Muslims in Burma.

In a statement Friday, the agency said those trying to escape are not able to find the “safety and security they desperately need.”

The U.N. agency also said it has first-hand, credible accounts of boats from Burma not being allowed to access Bangladesh territory. It said women, children and wounded people are among those on the boats.

Earlier this week, officials in predominantly Muslim Bangladesh said their border guards turned back hundreds of Rohingya Muslims trying to flee the fighting. Bangladesh's Foreign Ministry said it is not in the country's best interest to let them in.

About 300,000 Rohingya already live in Bangladesh. About one-tenth are sheltered in two official refugee camps.

Burmese officials say the fighting between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in western Rakhine state has claimed about 30 lives.

The officials say tens of thousands of people have been displaced and more than 2,500 homes burned.

A top U.N. envoy to Burma, Vijay Nambiar, ended his visit to the conflict-stricken region Thursday and stressed the importance of handling the situation delicately.

Nambiar told VOA it will take time to address the longstanding ethnic and sectarian tensions between the Rakhines and the Rohingyas.

Violence erupted June 3 when a mob of Buddhists in Rakhine ambushed a bus and killed 10 Rohingya Muslim passengers, in apparent retaliation for the earlier rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by three Muslims.