Rohingya refugees risk a dramatic deterioration in situation if aid not stepped up: UN

The warning came as Myanmar said the bodies of 28 Hindu villagers had been found outside a village in the north of Rakhine State and that authorities were searching for more

20-year-old Hindu girl, Chaw Shaw Chaw Thee (R) sits with her newborn baby, her husband and their young son at a shelter for refugees in Sittwe, on September 22, 2017. 
Chaw shaw Chaw Thee fears that twenty-three members of her family are dead, after Myanmar's army said on September 24, 2017 it had discovered a mass grave containing the bodies of 28 Hindus, including women and children, in violence-wracked Rakhine state, blaming the killings on Muslim Rohingya militants. / AFP PHOTO / Aidan JONES
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Rohingya Muslim refugees seeking shelter in Bangladesh from "unimaginable horrors" in Myanmar face enormous hardship and risk a dramatic deterioration in circumstances unless aid is stepped up, the head of the UN refugee agency said on Monday.

The warning came as Myanmar said the bodies of 28 Hindu villagers had been found in Rakhine State. Authorities suspect they belong to Hindus killed by Rohingya insurgents last month at the beginning of a wave of violence that has sent 436,000 members of the Muslim minority group fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh.

The violence in western Myanmar's Rakhine State and the refugee exodus is the biggest crisis the government of Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has faced since it came to power last year as part of a transition from nearly 50 years of military rule.

UN High Commissioner of Refugees Filippo Grandi told a news conference in Bangladesh that "solutions to this crisis lie with Myanmar".

But until then, the world had to help the "deeply traumatised" refugees facing enormous hardship, whom he had met on a weekend visit to camps in south-east Bangladesh.

"They had seen villages burnt down, families shot or hacked to death, women and girls brutalised," Mr Grandi said.

He called for aid to be "rapidly stepped up" and thanked Bangladesh for keeping its border open.


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Rohingya villages ‘burnt to the ground by Myanmar security forces’

Buddhist-majority Myanmar regards the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Fighting between Rohingya insurgents and government forces has flared periodically for decades.

The latest violence began on August 25 when militants from a little-known group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa), attacked about 30 police posts and an army camp.

The United Nations has described a sweeping military response as ethnic cleansing, with refugees and rights groups accusing Myanmar forces and Buddhist vigilantes of violence and arson aimed at driving Rohingya out.

Members of Myanmar's small Hindu minority appear to have been caught in the middle.

Some have fled to Bangladesh, complaining of violence against them by soldiers or Buddhist vigilantes. Others have complained of being attacked by the insurgents on suspicion of being government spies.

Myanmar said on Monday the bodies of 28 Hindus had been found outside a village in the north of Rakhine State and that authorities were looking for more.

The initial search was mounted after a refugee in Bangladesh contacted a Hindu community leader in Myanmar to say about 300 Arsa militants had marched about 100 people out of the village on August 25 and killed them, the government said.

Access to the area by journalists as well as human rights workers and aid workers is largely restricted and the report could not be independently verified.

An Arsa spokesman dismissed the accusation that the group had killed the Hindus, saying Buddhist nationalists were trying to divide Hindus and Muslims.

"Arsa has internationally pledged not to target civilians and that remains unchanged, no matter what," said the spokesman, who is based in a neighbouring country and identified himself only as Abdullah.