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Sep 16, 2017 | Asia

Two dead as boat carrying Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh capsizes


Accra, Sept. 14 - (dpa/GNA) - Two people drowned after a boat carrying Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh from Myanmar capsized in the Naf River, police said on Thursday.

Most of the 35 passengers aboard the boat managed to swim ashore but the bodies of a woman and a child were found in the river separating the two countries, local police officer Mainuddin Khan said.

The boat might have capsized after midnight at Nayapara in Teknaf, the southern-most tip of Bangladesh bordering Myanmar, Khan said.

More than 100 Rohingya Muslims have drowned trying the cross the river since violence erupted in Myanmar's Rakhine state last month.

The UN estimates that 400,000 Rohingya refugees have now arrived in Bangladesh, a number that is 30,000 higher than Wednesday's estimate.

Around 60 per cent of those refugees are children, according to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF).

The UN aid agency has started delivering water and sanitation supplies to the Bangladeshi fishing port of Cox's Bazar, which has been overwhelmed with refugee arrivals.

"There are acute shortages of everything, most critically shelter, food and clean water," Edouard Beigbeder, UNICEF's representative in Bangladesh, said in a statement.

"Conditions on the ground place children at high risk of water-borne diseases. We have a monumental task ahead of us to protect these extremely vulnerable children," he added.

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi will address the nation next week on the crisis as international pressure mounts on the government to end it.

Government spokesman Zaw Htay said Suu Kyi would deliver a televised address on Tuesday about the worsening violence in northern Rakhine.

Suu Kyi will do so for the sake of "national reconciliation and peace," her spokesman said.

Suu Kyi, who rules Myanmar as state counsellor, is skipping the UN General Assembly next week to "manage humanitarian assistance" and "security concerns," Zaw Htay said.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday called on the authorities to suspend military action in Rakhine, urging them to uphold the rule of law and recognize the rights of Rohingyas to re-enter the country.

"The humanitarian situation is catastrophic," he said at a news conference in New York.

"This is a dramatic tragedy, people are dying and suffering in horrible numbers and this needs to stop," Guterres said.

Guterres, who used to be the head of the UN's refugee agency, said he had spoken to Suu Kyi several times about the crisis, which was triggered on August 25 when Rohingya militants attacked police outposts in the Buddhist-majority country.

The government has dubbed the Rohingya militants "extremist terrorists," and with the army has warned of attacks in major cities.

The group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), says it does not target civilians and is trying to restore rights for Rohingya, a persecuted minority.

ARSA on Thursday rejected a call to arms by al-Qaeda, which a day earlier promoted the waging of "jihad" in Myanmar.

"ARSA feels that it is necessary to make it clear that it has no links with al-Qaeda," it wrote on Twitter, in a statement that also said it had no ties to Islamic State, Lashkar-e-Taiba or "any transnational terrorist group."

"We do not welcome the involvement of these groups in the Arakan conflict," it added, using Rakhine's former name.

"ARSA calls on states in the region to intercept and prevent terrorists from entering Arakan and making a bad situation worse."


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