COX’S BAZAR, Bangladesh – On the miles-long beach that makes this Bangladesh’s top tourist destination, thousands of people picnic and splash in the water. There are balloons and cotton candy for the kids, fried snacks and tender coconuts for the rest. Families sit under umbrellas. Young couples find quiet moments.
Travel just 25 miles (40 kilometers) south past lush green paddy fields lining the coast and a different scene emerges.
Vast areas are now entirely taken over by a sea of makeshift bamboo and plastic tents. These are homes for many of the more than 430,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled to Bangladesh with stories of terrible persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
The new arrivals spill out of refugee camps for Rohingya that have existed in this border district since the 1990s. But no previous exodus has been as enormous as the one that began a month ago on Aug. 25, when the latest convulsion of violence erupted in Myanmar.
Refugees flooded unceasingly across the border during the first three weeks as Myanmar troops embarked on what they called “cleansing operations” to target Rohingya insurgents after a series of coordinated attacks on dozens of police posts in Rakhine state.
The United Nations described it as “textbook ethnic cleansing.”
The tide of refugees has slowed to a trickle for now, but they still come by land and by boat on the Naf River, which runs between Myanmar and Muslim-majority…