Turkey first lady visits Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh

AP , Thursday 7 Sep 2017

Emine Erdogan
Emine Erdogan, wife of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, interacts with Rohingya Muslims at Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 (Photo: AP)

Turkey's first lady and foreign minister are visiting Bangladesh to learn why about 164,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims have fled from neighboring Myanmar in the past two weeks.

First lady Emine Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu visited a refugee camp housing more than 50,000 people and talked with residents, including a young person with a bullet injury, about ongoing violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

Bangladesh officials also briefed them on how they are attempting to provide shelter, food and health care to the huge numbers of refugees.

The first lady told reporters that Turkey will do everything possible to help the Rohingya, and that her husband, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, would take up the issue at this month's U.N. General Assembly meeting.

Many of Rohingya have said they are fleeing violence by Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist mobs in Rakhine.

The violence began with attacks by Rohingya insurgents on police on Aug. 25. Government forces retaliated with what they called "clearance operations."
The U.N. refugee agency says 164,000 Rohingya have flooded into Bangladesh since violence erupted in Myanmar on Aug. 25.

The revised refugee number confirmed Thursday by UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan was likely to go up further, with thousands still crossing the border every day.

The influx has pushed refugee camps to the brink in Bangladesh, leaving tens of thousands to squat in open fields or to occupy muddy patches in a no man's land between the two countries' borders.

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi told reporters her government was working to improve life for Rohingya Muslims, but that "it's a little unreasonable to expect us to resolve everything in 18 months" since her administration took office.

"We're trying to progress as quickly as possible on the development front, because one of the biggest problems is the matter of very limited resources," she said Thursday.

She said her government was looking to implement certain recommendations made last month by a commission led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The commission urged quick and decisive measures toward economic development and social justice measures to counter deadly violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine state.

New fires are burning in a Myanmar village that had been abandoned by Rohingya Muslims, and where schoolbooks with text from the Quran were seen ripped and left on the ground. That intensifies doubts about government claims that members of the persecuted minority have been destroying their own homes.

Journalists on a government-controlled trip saw the fires Thursday in Gawdu Zara village in northern Rakhine state, from which some 146,000 Rohingya have fled since ethnic violence erupted about two weeks ago.

An ethnic Rakhine villager who emerged from the smoke said police and Rakhine Buddhists had set the fires. The villager ran off before he could be asked anything else.

No police were seen at the village beyond those who were accompanying the journalists. But about 10 Rakhine men with machetes were seen there.

Reporters saw no Rohingya in that village or others that they were allowed to see Thursday.

This item has been corrected to show that schoolbooks with text from the Quran, not Qurans, were seen ripped.

Pakistan is urging the world to put pressure on Myanmar, where renewed violence has forced out tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims.

Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif says the Rohingyas' plight is "a challenge to the conscience" of the world and that Pakistan was committed to providing humanitarian aid to them.

The ministry issued a statement containing his opening remarks at a conference of Pakistani diplomats on Thursday.

Political parties and clerics have organized rallies across Pakistan to express their solidarity with Rohingyas and to condemn Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi for the reported massacres of Rohingyas. Her government has counted 400 deaths and says most were terrorists.

The violence began with insurgent attacks on police Aug. 25 and government forces retaliated with what they called "clearance operations." Some 146,000 Rohingya have fled since then.

Short link: