Bangladesh | Boat with Rohingya refugees capsizes, killing five as more flee

A Rohingya family reaches the Bangladesh border after crossing a creek of the Naf river on the border with Myanmar

A trawler carrying Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar capsized, drowning at least five people, as the country’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi blamed a misinformation campaign for fueling a crisis that the U.N. says has now pushed more than 125,000 refugees into Bangladesh.

Residents of Shah Porir Dwip fishing village recovered five bodies from the Bay of Bengal yesterday, hours after the boat capsized around midnight, said police official Yakub Ali.

It was not immediately clear where the boat began its journey, or if the passengers had been among some 450 detained by Bangladeshi border guards and ordered to return to Myanmar.

While some border guards were letting refugees across the borders, others were sending them back.

Faced with a mounting crisis and a lack of space and basic supplies, Bangladesh said it will set up a new camp to accommodate Rohingya refugees who have arrived from Myanmar since Aug. 25, many walking for days and crossing jungles and rivers to reach safety.

Shah Kamal of the Ministry of Disaster Management did not say when the new camp would be ready. He said yesterday it would be established in Tyingkhali, south of Cox’s Bazar district and near the established camp in Balukhali where more than 50,000 Rohingya have been sheltering since October.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has asked officials to prepare a database with fingerprints for the new arrivals.

The number of Rohingya fleeing western Rakhine state has reached more than 125,000, 80 percent of whom are women and children, said UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake.

“Many more children in need of support and protection remain in the areas of northern Rakhine state that have been wracked by violence,” he said in a statement, adding that the U.N. refugee agency had no access to Rakhine trouble spots.

“We are unable to reach the 28,000 children to whom we were previously providing psychosocial care or the more than 4,000 children who were treated for malnutrition in Buthidaung and Maungdaw” in Rakhine, he said. “Our clean water and sanitation work has been suspended, as have school repairs that were under way.”

The violence and civilian suffering have prompted international condemnation and resonated particularly in many Muslim countries.

Suu Kyi complained to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call that Turkey’s deputy prime minister was a victim of fake news when he posted photos purportedly showing dead Rohingya that were not related to the crisis. The photos on Mehmet Simsek’s Twitter account had been taken down.

According to her office, Suu Kyi said that such misinformation helps promote the interests of “terrorists,” a reference to Rohingya insurgents whose deadly attacks on Myanmar security posts Aug. 25 triggered the latest military crackdown and streams of refugees.

The military has said nearly 400 people, most of them insurgents, have died in clashes. Security forces responded to the attacks with days of “clearance operations” the government says were aimed at rooting out insurgents it accuses of setting fire to Rohingya villages.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was crucial that Myanmar’s government immediately give Rohingya either nationality or legal status so they can lead normal lives and freely move, find jobs, and get an education.

Guterres cited the longstanding history of “discrimination, hopelessness and extreme poverty” against Rohingya and warned about possible ethnic cleansing. Muneeza Naqvi & Julhas Alam, Kutupalong, AP

Categories Asia-Pacific