Myanmar citizens take shelter in China, Bangladesh as Rakhine rebels clash with security forces

More Myanmar citizens continue to flee into border nations of China and Bangladesh after fighting between ethnic armed groups and government security forces in the north of Myanmar continues.


Four ethnic armed groups have attacked security forces in the north of Myanmar, dealing a major blow to leader Aung San Suu Kyi's top goal of reaching peace with ethnic minorities.

Myanmar citizens take shelter in China

China said that it is giving shelter to more than 3,000 people who have fled Myanmar after fighting between the government and rebels, and stray shells have fallen inside Chinese territory causing minor damage but no deaths, state media said on Tuesday.

Myanmar citizens take shelter in China, Bangladesh as Rakhine rebels clash with security forces

A file picture of Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh. AFP

China, which has been alarmed by the fighting along the porous border, has put its armed forces on high alert and called for all sides to exercise restraint.

The official China Daily said injured people among the 3,000 Myanmar citizens have been taken to hospital in the southwestern province of Yunnan, which shares a long border with Myanmar.

"The Chinese authority has responded swiftly and handled the situation appropriately," Pan Xuesong, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Myanmar, told the newspaper.

Stray shells have fallen in Wanding, an important border crossing, causing some minor damage, state television added.

The Global Times newspaper also said a Chinese government building in Wanding had been lightly damaged.

China's Foreign Ministry said on Monday that at least one Chinese resident had also been injured.

Myanmar citizens take shelter in Bangladesh

Over the weekend and on Monday, hundreds of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar crossed the border to Bangladesh, aid workers said, seeking shelter from escalating violence in the north-west that has killed at least 86 people and displaced some 30,000.

An official from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the United Nations' migration agency, who did not want to be identified, said he had witnessed more than 500 people enter its camps in the hills near the border on Monday.

Aid workers from other United Nations agencies and Reuters reporters in the IOM camps also reported seeing Rohingyas who said they had recently fled the fighting in Myanmar. The UN workers did not give specific numbers but expressed concern about a sudden influx of people.

The bloodshed is the most serious since hundreds were killed in communal clashes in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine in 2012, and is posing the biggest test yet for the eight-month-old administration of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi.

Soldiers have poured into the area along Myanmar's frontier with Bangladesh, responding to coordinated attacks on three border posts on 9 October that killed nine police officers, Reuters said.

Moulavi Aziz Khan, 60, from a village in northern Rakhine, said he left Myanmar last week after the military surrounded his home and set fire to it.

"At that time, I fled with my four daughters and three grandsons to a nearby hill ... later, we managed to cross the border," he said.

Myanmar's military and the government have rejected allegations by residents and rights groups that soldiers have raped Rohingya women, burnt houses and killed civilians during the military operation in Rakhine.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said at the weekend satellite images taken on 10, 17 and 18 November showed 820 destroyed buildings in five villages in northern Rakhine, bringing the total number it says it has documented to 1,250.

Checking reports

Earlier, Myanmar's government has also rejected previous reports of Rohingya civilians trying to escape to Bangladesh.

Zaw Htay, presidential spokesman and a member of the newly-formed information taskforce on Rakhine, said the government continued to investigate such reports but had not so far been able to substantiate any of them.

"We checked with the military and police about people fleeing to Bangladesh since 9 October. Some people fled from their villages, but we put them back to their villages," he said.

"If something like that happened, we are concerned and we will continue to investigate. We are not rejecting all allegations...our government always checks all the allegations, and some were found to be untrue."

Myanmar's army has declared an "operations zone" in mainly Muslim northern Rakhine, where it says it is battling Islamist-inspired Rohingya insurgents, and it is not possible for international reporters to enter the area to verify claims.

Myanmar's 1.1 million Rohingya, viewed as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh by many of the country's majority Buddhists, are denied citizenship and face severe restrictions on their travel.

Up to 30,000 people are now estimated to be displaced and thousands more affected by the recent fighting, the UN has said.

Humanitarian operations that had been providing food, cash, and nutrition to more than 150,000 people have been suspended for more than 40 days.

The UN refugee agency called on the Myanmar government for access to allow it to distribute aid.

"The idea is to help them where they are so that they wouldn't be forced to cross over into Bangladesh," Vivian Tan, regional public information officer for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, told Reuters Television.

"If they can't get the assistance where they are then if they are forced to cross into another country like Bangladesh, we're really appealing to the Bangladeshi government to honour its long tradition of hospitality and open its borders to these refugees."

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Updated Date: Nov 22, 2016 10:51:43 IST

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