The massive exodus of Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar to escape brutal persecution appears to have slowed down, but several recent refugees say tens of thousands more are huddled near beaches or in forests waiting to escape.
Some Rohingya who have fled over the last week said Myanmar army soldiers were shooting at those trying to flee to Bangladesh. Others said thousands were stuck in Myanmar because most boatmen had made the crossing to safety themselves and soldiers had burned many of the boats that remained.
Over the last month, an estimated 430,000 Rohingya have arrived in Bangladesh as their homes and villages were set on fire by mobs of soldiers and Buddhist monks. They have brought with them accounts of soldiers spraying their villages with gunfire.
In the first three weeks of the latest convulsion of violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, tens of thousands of Rohingya poured into Bangladesh each day, walking for days through forests or taking rickety wooden boats on the rain-swollen Naf River. Many crossed into the country via the thin sliver of the Bay of Bengal that separates Myanmar from Bangladesh.
But Associated Press journalists have seen only a handful of people enter by land or sea at a few border crossings over the last week. However, there are several crossing points on the border between the two countries where Rohingya have entered over the last month, making it impossible to verify how many people enter Bangladesh each day.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi also noted that the number of incoming Rohingya appeared to have dipped.
One man who fled Myanmar, Syed Noor, said Sunday that tens of thousands of Rohingya were waiting at border points in Myanmar desperately trying to escape. Noor and his family had fled overnight into Bangladesh.
Noor said other people from his village and other villages near the Rakhine town of Buthidaung were hiding in forests near the Naf River.
“They are stuck in one place because the Myanmar army is shooting at us,” said Noor, exhausted and groaning in pain. His excruciating journey took nine days and he said there was no food to be had for the last four days.
Terrified villagers hiding in jungle
At first, the Myanmar army was targeting people and…