Asia / International News / Politics

The Latest: Myanmar says 176 Rohingya villages now empty

Spokesperson for Myanmar’s State Counsellor office Zaw Htay talks to journalists during a press briefing at the Presidential Palace in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, Wednesday, Sept 13, 2017. Zaw Htay said second Vice President Henry Van Thio would attend the U.N. General Assembly instead of leader Aung San Suu Kyi. (AP Photo)

BANGKOK (AP) — The Latest on violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and the flood of ethnic Rohingya refugees into Bangladesh (all times local):

7 p.m.

Myanmar’s presidential spokesman says 176 ethnic Rohingya villages are now empty after all of their residents fled during recent violence in Rakhine state.

Zaw Htay said there had been a total of 471 Rohingya villages in three townships. He said in addition to the 176 that were abandoned, some residents fled from at least 34 other villages.

Rohingya Muslims face widespread persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where the recent violence has driven hundreds of thousands to seek refuge overseas.

Zaw Htay did not use the name Rohingya. Members of the ethnic group are commonly referred to as “Bengalis” by many in Myanmar who insist they migrated illegally from Bangladesh.

Zaw Htay also said Myanmar would not allow all people who fled to return. He said: “We have to verify them. We can only accept them after they are verified.”

6 p.m.

Hundreds of people have marched in India’s capital demanding an end to violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

Police stopped the group some distance from Myanmar’s embassy.

The protesters criticized Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, asking whether she was given a Nobel Peace Prize for promoting peace or for persecuting Rohingya Muslims. Rohingya face widespread persecution in the Buddhist-majority country, where recent violence has driven hundreds of thousands to seek refuge overseas, mostly in Bangladesh.

Anees Ansari, a protester, said India should provide shelter to an estimated 40,000 Rohingya refugees in the country until the threat to their lives ends in Myanmar.

Rohingya in India face an uncertain future, with the Hindu-nationalist government threatening to send them back to Myanmar. India’s top court has scheduled a hearing on Monday on a request by activists that the government be prevented from sending them back.

Wednesday’s protest was organized by an activist group, Act Now for Harmony and Democracy, and Jamaat-i-islami Hind, a political group.


4:15 p.m.

Thousands of men and women lined up outside a makeshift relief center that was distributing rice, sugar and other relief materials including clothing and tarpaulin sheets.

Mamunur Rashid of the International Organization for Migration said the new supplies would be enough to help some 5,000 out of the roughly 370,000 Rohingya Muslims who have flooded into Bangladesh in recent weeks.

He hoped to distribute aid to at least 2,000 of them on Wednesday.

The influx has overwhelmed pre-existing refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district, and many new arrivals were squatting in makeshift shelters alongside roads or in fields.

Rashid said many had arrived hungry and needing medical help after fleeing recent violence in Myanmar.

Rashid said aid workers were helping some set up temporary homes in the hills behind the camp.

But he said “they need help, more help.”


3:40 p.m.

Police in a Bangladeshi border town say they have recovered the bodies of nine people believed to have been on a boat full of Rohingya that capsized overnight while fleeing Myanmar.

Teknaf police chief Mainuddin Khan said the bodies were recovered Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. It was not immediately clear how many passengers were on the boat, or whether there might be more victims.

Khan said a total of 84 bodies had been recovered from the Naf River since violence broke out in Myanmar on Aug. 25 and drove some 370,000 Rohingya Muslims to seek safety in Bangladesh.

Local officials and aid organizations were struggling to provide food, water and medical care to all of the new arrivals.


1:30 p.m.

Dubai’s ruler is sending a Boeing 747 cargo plane loaded with tents to shelter Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.

The Foreign Ministry of the United Arab Emirates said the plane is carrying over 100 metric tons (110 tons) of tents made available by the United Nations refugee agency.

The ministry said Wednesday the plane sent by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the second to leave Dubai’s International Humanitarian City in recent days. Another UNHCR shipment carried jerrycans, sleeping mats, tarps, blankets and kitchen sets.

Recent violence in Myanmar has driven hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to seek refuge in Bangladesh. Rohingya have faced persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar for decades.


1 p.m.

Myanmar’s president office says a committee has been formed to implement recommendations for improving the security and livelihoods of its ethnic Rohingya Muslim minority.

The recommendations were made in a report last month by a commission led by former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The president’s office said in a statement Tuesday that the new 15-member Implementation Committee of Rakhine Advisory Committee would work on improving security, economic development and social affairs in Rohingya areas, as well as maintaining the sustainability of ethnic villages and removing camps for the displaced.

It said the committee would also work to speed progress on verifying the Rohingya under the country’s citizenship laws so they can be recognized as citizens.


12:20 p.m.

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has canceled plans to attend the U.N. General Assembly, with her country drawing international criticism for violence that has driven at least 370,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims from the country in less than three weeks.

Presidential office spokesman Zaw Htay said Wednesday that Suu Kyi will skip the assembly, which opened Tuesday, to address domestic security issues. Suu Kyi is not Myanmar’s president — her official titles are state counsellor and foreign minister — but she effectively serves as leader of the Southeast Asian nation.

Attacks by an insurgent Rohingya group on police outposts Aug. 25 have set off a wave of violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, with hundreds dead and thousands of homes burned — mostly Rohingya in both cases.


9:30 a.m.

Four Hercules planes carrying 34 tons of aid for Rohinyga refugees have departed for Bangladesh from an air force base in the Indonesian capital.

Indonesia’s President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has called for an immediate end to violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state and promised significant humanitarian aid. He and other officials including his foreign minister and military chief inspected the relief operation before its departure from Halim Air Base.

Presidential spokesman Johan Budi says the planes are carrying rice, instant meals, family kits, tents, water tanks and blankets.

He says it’s the first batch of aid from Indonesia following discussions with Myanmar and Bangladesh.

At least 370,000 Rohingya have flooded into Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when Myanmar’s military responded to an insurgent attack with what it called “clearance operations” to root out the rebels. Many of the fleeing Rohingya have said Myanmar soldiers shot indiscriminately, burned their homes and warned them to leave or die. Others said they were attacked by Buddhist mobs.