Special Feature

More than 6,700 Rohingya killed in one month in Myanmar

16 Dec,2017

BdChronicle Special Feature:

An estimated 9,000 Rohingya residents of northern Rakhine state died in the first month of the recent Myanmar army crackdown, surveys by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have revealed.

The international NGO, also known as Doctors Without Borders, said around 6,700 of the reported deaths between August 25 and September 24 of 2017 were caused by violence, with at least 730 children below the age of five among the victims.

“We met and spoke with survivors of violence in Myanmar, who have now taken shelter in overcrowded and unsanitary camps in Bangladesh,” MSF Medical Director Dr Sidney Wong said in a recent press release.

“What we uncovered was staggering, both in terms of the numbers of people who reported a family member had died as a result of violence, and the horrific ways in which they said they were killed or severely injured.”

The MSF survey confirms that the Rohingya have been deliberately targeted and provides the clearest indication yet that thousands of the ethnic minority died in the recent wave of violence.

“The peak in deaths coincides with the launch of the latest ‘clearance operations’ by Myanmar security forces in the last week of August,” Dr Wong said.

Over 647,000 Rohingya refugees have since fled to Bangladesh, according to the Intersector Coordination Group as of December 12.

In early November, the MSF conducted six retrospective mortality surveys in different sections of the refugee settlements in Cox’s Bazar, just over the border from Myanmar.

The total population of the areas covered by the surveys was 608,108, of which 503,698 had fled Myanmar since August 25, when the military, police and local militias launched a violent crackdown in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

The mortality rate among these people in the one month to September 24 was recorded as 8 deaths per 10,000 people, per day – or 2.26% of the sampled population.

However, if this mortality rate is also applied to the total newly-arrived population in the surveyed camps, an estimated 11,393 people including 1,713 children aged under five died in Rakhine state in the initial 31 days following the upsurge of violence.

Of these, around 8,170 deaths would have been due to violence; among them 1,247 children aged under five.

“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,” Dr Wong said.

“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.”

Overall, MSF found that gunshots were the cause of death in 69% of the violence-related deaths, followed by being burnt to death in their houses (9%) and being beaten to death (5%).

Among those children below the age of five years who were killed, an estimated 59% were shot, 15% burnt to death, 7% were beaten to death and 2% died due to landmine blasts.

“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,” Dr Wong said.

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

The MSF press release said the signing of an agreement for the return of the refugees between the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh is “premature”.

The MSF believes that the Rohingya should not be forced to return and their safety and rights need to be guaranteed before any such plan can be seriously considered. 

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