Geneva, Sep 29: About 60 people are believed to have died when a boat carrying Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Myanmar capsized off Bangladesh, the UN said on Friday.
The boat capsized in the Bay of Bengal close to Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district late on Thursday. A UN spokesman said 23 people were now confirmed dead and 40 more were “missing and presumed drowned”, BBC reported.
According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) spokesman Joel Millman, some survivors said the boat was carrying about 80 people.
“Survivors described being at sea all night, having no food,” he said. Several children were among the dead.
Dozens of Rohingya have already died trying to cross into Bangladesh amid a military crackdown in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Violence erupted in Rakhine on August 25 when Rohingya militants attacked security posts, triggering a military crackdown.
More than half a million Rohingya — a Muslim minority who are denied citizenship in Myanmar — have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh since then.
Those who have fled accuse Myanmar’s military, backed by Buddhist mobs, of using a brutal campaign of killings and burning of villages to try to drive them out.
The Myanmar authorities, however, say the August violence in Rakhine state was instigated by Rohingya militants and deny UN accusations of “ethnic cleansing”.
On Thursday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called on the countries currently providing weapons to Myanmar’s government to stop doing so until “sufficient accountability measures” were in place.
“Those who have been accused of committing abuses should be removed from command responsibilities immediately and prosecuted for wrongdoing,” she said.
She also accused Mynamar of ethnic cleansing. “We cannot be afraid to call the actions of the Burmese authorities what they appear to be: a brutal, sustained campaign to cleanse the country of an ethnic minority.”
Her comments came after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the General Assembly that violence in Myanmar had spiralled into “a humanitarian and human rights nightmare”.
“In Myanmar, the situation has spiralled into the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency and a humanitarian and human rights nightmare.”
He said that the Myanmar military should immediately stop its operations, allow humanitarian aid to reach the affected people and allow the Rohingya Muslims to return home.