Bangladesh warns Myanmar

Rohingya refugees disembark from a boat after crossing the border from Myanmar, on the Bangladeshi shores of the Naf river in Teknaf on Sept 14. Bangladeshi boat operators are exploiting Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar by demanding up to $100 for ferry trips that usually cost 50 cents, as the United Nations warned Sept 14 of a ‘worst case scenario’ in which the entire minority group tries to escape the unrest. (AFP)

Bangladesh has accused Myanmar of repeatedly violating its air space and warned that any more “provocative acts” could have “unwarranted consequences”, raising the risk of a deterioration in relations already strained by the Rohingya refugee crisis.

Nearly 400,000 Rohingya Muslims from western Myanmar have crossed into Bangladesh since Aug 25, fleeing a Myanmar government offensive against insurgents that the United Nations has branded a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Bangladesh said Myanmar drones and helicopters had violated its air space three times — on Sept 10, 12 and 14 — and it had called in a top Myanmar embassy official in Dhaka to complain. “Bangladesh expressed deep concern at the repetition of such acts of provocation and demanded that Myanmar takes immediate measures to ensure that such violation of sovereignty does not occur again,” the ministry said in statement late on Friday. “These provocative acts may lead to unwarranted consequences.”

A Myanmar government spokesman said he did not have information about the incidents Bangladesh had complained about but Myanmar had denied an earlier accusation. The spokesman, Zaw Htay, said Myanmar would check any information that Bangladesh provided. “Our two countries are facing the refugee crisis. We need to collaborate with good understanding,” he told Reuters.

Bangladesh has for decades faced influxes of Rohingya fleeing persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where the Rohingya are regarded as illegal migrants. Bangladesh was already home to 400,000 Rohingya before the latest crisis erupted on Aug 25, when Rohingya insurgents attacked about 30 police posts and an army camp, killing a dozen people. The Myanmar security forces and Rakhine Buddhist vigilantes responded with what rights monitors and fleeing Rohingya say is a campaign of violence and arson aimed at driving out the Muslim population. Bangladesh has said all refugees must go home.

Myanmar has said it will take back those who can verify their citizenship but most Rohingya are stateless. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was leaving on Saturday for the UN General Assembly where she would call for pressure to ensure Myanmar takes everyone back after stopping its “ethnic cleansing’, her press secretary, Ihsanul Karim, told Reuters. (RTRS)

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