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Fleeing Rohingyas fail to cross border

Officials deny entry to hundreds trying to escape sectarian violence in western Myanmar

by reporters, Cox’s Bazar and Dhaka

June 12, 2012

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Around 600 Rohingyas attempting to escape deadly sectarian clashes in Rakhine State in western Myanmar were denied entry to Bangladesh yesterday, officials said. Traveling for two days with little food or water, 14 fishing trawlers crossed the Naf River but were turned back from the southeastern Cox’s Bazar district, border and coast guard sources said. Bangladeshi authorities fear an influx of refugees will strain the country, which is already home to approximately 200,000-300,000 Rohingya people who left their homes in Myanmar after earlier ethnic violence. Mohammad Isahak and Jafar Alam, two of the Rohingya people pushed back by Bangladeshi forces, said that around 20-25 boats full of Rohingya families left from Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees has called on the Bangladesh government to ease border restrictions and allow Rohingya refugees injured in attacks in Rakhine state. "Security forces of both countries have increased strength at the border to keep the situation under control. Very few refugees were able to make their way to Bangladesh for refuge," said Craig Anders, country representative for UNHCR, in a report by the BBC's Bangla service. Violence erupted between majority Buddhists and the largely Muslim minority Rohingya on Friday. Media reports say the recent rape and murder of a Buddhist girl allegedly by three Muslim men sparked longstanding tensions. A state of emergency was declared in Rakhine State on Sunday. At least seven people have reportedly been killed in the sectarian clashes, with 17 injured, and hundreds of homes burned. Buddhists in the state largely consider the Rohingya as foreigners, and the Myanmar government has denied them citizenship, refusing to acknowledge them as one of the country’s recognized ethnic groups. It is estimated that thousands of Rohingya people try to leave Myanmar every year, heading for Bangladesh, India or Malaysia. Related reports Clashes spark Rohingya refugee fears Myanmar mulls Rohingya return

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