An uptick in violence against Myanmar’s Rohingyas has led to the exodus of at least 8,000 members of the persecuted minority Muslim group in the last two weeks, the Associated Press, or AP, reported, citing local human rights activists. These numbers have nearly doubled from the same period in 2013, according to media reports.
Chris Lewa, director of the Burmese nonprofit human rights group Arakan Project, reportedly said that since Oct. 15, an average of 900 people, mostly Rohingyas, have attempted to flee to the neighboring nations of Thailand and Malaysia, daily.
“Myanmar police let the boats come to the estuary of the Naf river in daylight and have even stopped asking for money from the Rohingya before they embark,” Lewa reportedly said, referring to the river marking the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh. “It looks as if it is planned.”
In recent days, a number of people have reportedly been arrested from the western Rakhine state for having ties with the Rohingya Solidarity Organization, a militant group that has been blamed for sporadic attacks in villages and towns near the Myanmar-Bangladesh border. Officials of the Arakan Project alleged that the Border Guard Police, an organization frequently accused of human rights violations, tortured many of those detained, which had “provoked a sort of panic.”
The surge in the number of those fleeing could be attributed to these reports of arrests and torture, Lewa said.
The Burmese government has long claimed that the nearly 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims, who reside primarily in the northern tip of Rakhine state, are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. In recent years, this has resulted in frequent and violent clashes between the majority Buddhist and the minority Muslim population in Rakhine, killing hundreds and displacing thousands of people.
Since 2012, nearly 100,000 Rohingyas have fled Myanmar. A large number of these refugees are been held in camps run by human traffickers in southern Thailand, according to media reports.