Bangladesh urges Myanmar to end unrest

Bangladesh urged Myanmar Thursday to end months of violence that has forced tens of thousands of Rohingya to flee across the border, saying the influx was hitting economic development.

At least 65,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since Myanmar launched a military operation in October following attacks on police posts in western Rakhine state, a third of them over the past week.

Rights groups say members of the stateless Muslim minority have Banglfaced abuses so severe they could amount to crimes against humanity.

On Wednesday Bangladeshi foreign minister A.H. Mahmood Ali held talks with a special envoy of Myanmar’s de-facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Dhaka.

“The special envoy has been informed that the recent arrival of a huge number of Myanmar nationals and the long and illegal stay of approximately 300,000 unregistered Myanmar nationals have disrupted stability and economic development in the very important region of Chittagong,” he told reporters on Thursday.

There were already 33,000 registered and 300,000 unregistered Rohingya refugees in the country before the latest outbreak of violence.

“Bangladesh has demanded quick restoration of normal situation in Rakhine state so that Myanmar nationals who have taken shelter in Bangadesh can quickly go back home with full security and safety to their livelihood,” he said.

Dhaka is under pressure both at home and abroad to open its border to the Rohingya, but the recent arrivals are already putting enormous strain on the impoverished nation of 160 million people.

It has instead reinforced its border posts and deployed coastguard ships to prevent fresh arrivals.

There was no comment from the envoy, Kyaw Tin, Myanmar’s deputy foreign minister, who was to wrap up his three-day visit to Dhaka Thursday.

Last month the Bangladesh foreign ministry summoned Myanmar’s ambassador to express “deep concern at the continued influx”.

Those who arrived in Bangladesh have brought harrowing accounts of rape, murder and arson at the hands of Myanmar’s army or police.

Their stories have raised global alarm and galvanised protests against Suu Kyi who has been accused of not doing enough to help the Rohingya.

Myanmar’s government has said the claims of abuse are fabricated and launched a special commission to investigate the allegations.

The government refuses to recognise the Rohingya as one of the country’s ethnic minorities, instead describing them as Bengalis — or illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh — even though many have lived in Myanmar for generations.