Key dates in the Rohingya crisis

Key dates in the Rohingya crisis

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Below are key dates in the Rohingya refugee crisis, which left 6,700 dead in the first month of unrest, according to Doctors Without Borders (MSF).

A Rohingya refugee girl looks next to newly arrived refugees who fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar in Ukhiya on September 6, 2017.
More than 125,000 refugees have flooded across the border into Bangladesh. Most are Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic minority that the government of Buddhist-majority Myanmar largely does not recognise as citizens. / AFP PHOTO

Some 655,000 members of this stateless Muslim minority have fled Myanmar for Bangladesh since August.

– August 25: army crackdown –
Early on August 25, 2017, hundreds of Rohingya militants staged coordinated attacks on 30 police posts in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, killing at least 12 police.

The Myanmar army hits back with “clearance operations” in Rohingya villages. It says it is trying to flush out insurgents from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).

But witnesses tell of Rohingya civilians being massacred in retaliation, with mortars and machine guns fired at villagers fleeing to the Bangladesh border.

The crackdown sparks an exodus from Rohingya villages, which are soon burning so fiercely the flames and smoke are visible from Bangladesh.

– September 5: refugee storm –
Within 11 days of the attacks, more than 120,000 Rohingya have flooded into Bangladesh, overwhelming the handful of ill-equipped refugee camps around Cox’s Bazar.

Many arrive desperate for food and water after walking for more than a week over hills and through dense jungle. Some need urgent treatment for bullet wounds and machete gashes.

Bangladesh already houses at least 300,000 Rohingya in camps near the border. The fresh influx creates a dire shortage of food, clean water and shelter.

– September 19: Suu Kyi breaks silence –
In her first public statement on the crisis, delivered in English, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi pledges to hold rights violators to account and to resettle some of the Rohingyas who have fled.

She says Myanmar stands ready “at any time” to repatriate refugees in accordance with a “verification” process agreed with Bangladesh in the early 1990s.

In a 30-minute televised speech she offers no concrete solutions to stop what the UN calls “ethnic cleansing” and fails to appease critics around the world.

Inside Myanmar supporters say the leader lacks the power to rein in the army, which ruled the country for nearly half a century and still controls key ministries, including border and defence.

She makes a first visit to the conflict zone on November 2, but makes no statement.

– November 23: repatriation accord –
Bangladesh and Myanmar agree to start repatriating refugees in Bangladesh in two months, without using the word “Rohingya”.

After months of wrangling, the two governments ink a deal in Myanmar’s capital Naypyidaw.

A day later the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says the conditions for a safe and lasting return are not met.

– December 2: Pope asks for ‘forgiveness’ –
Pope Francis meets Rohingya refugees in a visit to Bangladesh, saying: “In the name of all those who have persecuted you, who have harmed you, in the face of the world’s indifference, I ask for your forgiveness.”

The pope refers to the refugees as Rohingya, using the term for the first time on the tour in Bangladesh, having been advised that doing so in Myanmar, which he visited just before, could inflame tensions and endanger Christians.

– December 5: possible ‘genocide’ –
The UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein calls for a fresh international investigation into Myanmar’s abuses against its Rohingya minority, warning of possible “elements of genocide”.

The UN has on several occasions denounced “ethnic cleansing” by the Myanmar authorities.

– December 14: 6,700 killed in first month –
According to the NGO Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), at least 6,700 Rohingya Muslims, including 730 children below the age of five, were killed in the first month of the army crackdown.

It stresses that this is a conservative estimate.

Gunshot wounds were the cause of death in 69 percent of the cases, according to the aid organisation.

Another nine percent were reported burned alive inside houses, while five percent died from fatal beatings.


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