By Tommy Wilkes
COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh (Reuters) – Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh could die due to a lack of food, shelter and water, given the huge numbers fleeing violence in Myanmar, an aid agency warned on Sunday, as authorities began moving people to camps to streamline the distribution of help.
Nearly 410,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim minority fled from Myanmar’s western Rakhine state to Bangladesh to escape a military offensive that the United Nations has branded a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
“Many people are arriving hungry, exhausted and with no food or water,” Mark Pierce, Bangladesh country director for the Save the Children aid agency said in a statement.
“I’m particularly worried that the demand for food, shelter, water and basic hygiene support is not being met due to the sheer number of people in need. If families can’t meet their basic needs, the suffering will get even worse and lives could be lost.”
Bangladesh has for decades faced influxes of Rohingya fleeing persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where the Rohingya are regarded as illegal migrants.
Bangladesh was already home to 400,000 Rohingya before the latest crisis erupted on Aug. 25, when Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts and an army camp in the western state of Rakhine, killing a dozen people.
Pierce said the humanitarian response needed to be rapidly scaled up.
“That can only be done if the international community steps up funding,” he said.
Rights monitors and fleeing Rohingya say Myanmar security forces and Rakhine Buddhist vigilantes responded to the Aug. 25 insurgent attacks with what they say is a campaign of violence and arson aimed at driving out the Muslim population.
Myanmar rejects that, saying its security forces are carrying out clearance operations against the insurgents of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which claimed responsibility for the August attacks and similar, smaller, raids in October.
The Myanmar government has declared the group a terrorist organization and accused it of setting the fires and attacking civilians.
Bangladesh border guards said the flow of refugees leaving Myanmar had eased off over the past day, apparently because bad weather had discouraged people from taking to boats to reach Bangladesh.
SUU KYI ADDRESS
Heavy rain has turned roads into mud, with refugees huddling under shelters of bamboo and plastic sheets beside them.
Bangladeshi authorities said they had started moving an estimated 100,000 Rohingya living by the…