By Tommy Wilkes, Simon Cameron-Moore
COX‘S BAZAR/YANGON (Reuters) – Blessed by calmer seas, several hundred more Rohingya Muslims on Thursday joined a multitude of refugees in Bangladesh, as calls grew for upcoming regional summits to exert more pressure on Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi to stem the crisis.
A Myanmar military operation has driven out more than 600,000 Rohingya since late August and the latest refugees to find sanctuary in predominantly Muslim Bangladesh say many thousands more are still trying to leave.
Ariful Islam, of Bangladesh’s Border Guard, said about 200 people arrived on Thursday morning on the stretch of coast he commands at Teknaf, at the southern tip of Cox’s Bazar district.
But the sea was fairly flat on Thursday morning as Abdus Sabir came ashore at Shamlapur along with a large group of Rohingya after a six-hour boat journey to complete an escape begun weeks ago.
“We fled because the military is still burning our houses,” Abdus, who had abandoned his home in the Rathedaung region of Myanmar’s Rakhine State, told Reuters.
Nearby, Husain Shorif, from the Buthidaung region, said he had rowed for four hours to help bring across 56 people on a raft cobbled together from bamboo and plastic jerrycans.
“Some boatmen were asking for huge money we didn’t have. So we made our own boat and came,” Shorif said, adding that thousands more Rohingya were still stranded at Pa Nyaung Pin Gyi at the mouth of the Naf river.
Reuters was unable to verify that claim as Myanmar’s military has restricted access to northern parts of Rakhine, where it launched a clearance operation it says was aimed at Rohingya militants behind attacks on 30 security posts on Aug. 25. UN officials described the operation as “ethnic cleansing”, an accusation Myanmar has denied.
Suu Kyi, the de facto leader of Myanmar’s less than two-year-old civilian administration, left on Thursday to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Vietnam’s central seaside resort of Danang.
Awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for standing up to the generals who had ruled the country for nearly half a century, Suu Kyi now has to share power with them, under a constitution drawn up in 2008 when junta was still in control, and has little control over what they do.
After Friday’s APEC gathering, Suu Kyi will meet leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) grouping in Manila on Sunday, followed by an East Asia Summit in Angeles, just north of the Philippine capital.
Mass exodus: tmsnrt.rs/2xTAOon
Rohingya refugees walk on the shore as they arrive on a makeshift boat after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border