Aung San Suu Kyi. Picture: EPA/LYNN BO BO
Aung San Suu Kyi. Picture: EPA/LYNN BO BO

Shamlapur — Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi came under more pressure on Tuesday from countries with Muslim populations to halt violence against Rohingya Muslims that has sent nearly 125,000 of them fleeing over the border to Bangladesh in just over 10 days.

Reuters reporters saw hundreds more exhausted Rohingya arriving on boats near the Bangladeshi border village of Shamlapur on Tuesday, suggesting the exodus was far from over.

Indonesian foreign minister Retno Marsudi, in Dhaka to discuss aid for the fleeing Rohingya, met her Bangladeshi counterpart, Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, a day after urging Suu Kyi and Myanmar army chief Min Aung Hlaing to halt the bloodshed.

"The security authorities need to immediately stop all forms of violence there and provide humanitarian assistance and development aid for the short and long term," Retno said after her meetings in the Myanmar capital.

The latest violence in Myanmar’s northwestern Rakhine state began on August 25, when Rohingya insurgents attacked dozens of police posts and an army base. The ensuing clashes and a military counter-offensive have killed at least 400 people and triggered the exodus of villagers to Bangladesh.

The treatment of Buddhist-majority Myanmar’s roughly 1.1 million Muslim Rohingya is the biggest challenge facing Suu Kyi, who has been accused by Western critics of not speaking out for the minority that has long complained of persecution.

Myanmar says its security forces are fighting a legitimate campaign against "terrorists" responsible for a string of attacks on police posts and the army since last October.

Myanmar officials blamed Rohingya militants for the burning of homes and civilian deaths but rights monitors and Rohingya fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh say the Myanmar army is trying to force them out with a campaign of arson and killings.

"Indonesia is taking the lead, and ultimately there is a possibility of Asean countries joining in," HT Imam, a political adviser to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, said. He was referring to the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations that includes both Myanmar and Indonesia.

"If we can keep the pressure on Myanmar from Asean, from India as well, that will be good.… If the international conscience is awakened, that would put pressure on Myanmar."

Malaysia, another Asean member, summoned Myanmar’s ambassador to express displeasure over the violence and scolded Myanmar for making "little, if any" progress on the problem.

"Malaysia believes that the matter of sustained violence and discrimination against the Rohingyas should be elevated to a higher international forum," Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said.

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan, who has said the violence against Rohingya Muslims constituted genocide, told Suu Kyi the violence was of deep concern to the Muslim world, and he was sending his foreign minister to Bangladesh.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins a visit to Myanmar on Tuesday, during which he will meet top officials, including Suu Kyi.

Pakistan, home to a large Rohingya community, has expressed "deep anguish".

The latest estimate of the numbers who have crossed into Bangladesh since August 25, based on calculations by UN workers, is 123,600.

That takes to about 210,000 the number of Rohingya who have sought refuge in Bangladesh since October, when Rohingya insurgents staged smaller attacks on security posts, triggering a major Myanmar army counteroffensive and sending about 87,000 people fleeing into Bangladesh.


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