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Survivors of Myanmar violence say children were beheaded and men burnt alive

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Myanmar of “genocide” against the Rohingya Muslim minority.

ROH A Rohingya boy carries a sack of belongings on his head after crossing over to the Bangladesh side of the border Source: Bernat Armangue/AP/Press Association Images

TURKISH PRESIDENT RECEP Tayyip Erdogan has accused Myanmar of “genocide” against the Rohingya Muslim minority, who have fled in tens of thousands across the border into Bangladesh to escape ethnic violence.

“There is a genocide there,” Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul during the Islamic Eid al-Adha feast.

“Those who close their eyes to this genocide perpetuated under the cover of democracy are its collaborators,” Erdogan said.

Around 400 people — most of them Rohingya Muslims — have died in violence searing through Myanmar’s northwestern Rakhine state, the army chief’s office said yesterday.

Reports of massacres and the systematic torching of villages by security forces — as well as by militants — have further amplified tensions, raising fears that communal violence in Rakhine is spinning out of control.

To escape the violence, about 20,000 Rohingya have massed along the Bangladeshi frontier, barred from entering the South Asian country, while scores of desperate people have drowned attempting to cross the Naf, a border river, in makeshift boats.

Witnesses have shared harrowing accounts of the violence with Bangkok-based watchdog Fortify Rights.

One 27-year-old man who survived violence in Chut Pyin village said: “Some people were beheaded, and many were cut. We were in the house hiding when [armed residents from a neighbouring village] were beheading people. When we saw that, we just ran out the back of the house.”

Fortify Rights said Myanmar Army soldiers and non-Rohingya armed-residents from a nearby village entered Chut Pyin village on 27 August.

Survivors described how soldiers shot and killed several residents, while people from a neighbouring village armed with swords and knives hacked and, in some cases, beheaded Rohingya residents, including children. Soldiers reportedly arrested a large group of Rohingya men, marched them into a nearby bamboo hut and set it on fire – burning them to death.

A 41-year-old male survivor recalled: “My brother was killed, [Myanmar Army soldiers] burned him with the group. We found [my other family members] in the fields.

“They had marks on their bodies from bullets and some had cuts. My two nephews, their heads were off. One was six years old and the other was nine years old. My sister-in-law was shot with a gun.”

‘A humanitarian catastrophe’

Erdogan said he would bring up the issue at the next UN General Assembly in New York later this month, adding that he had already talked to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and other Muslim leaders.

According to the state-run Anadolu news agency, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Bangladeshi authorities to “open your doors”, adding that the country would cover the costs associated with letting in more Rohingya.

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Bangladesh already hosts 400,000 Rohingya and does not want more.

“We have called upon the Organization of Islamic Cooperation,” Cavusoglu said. “We will organise a summit this year” on the issue.

We have to find a definitive solution to this problem.

The UN Security Council met behind closed doors on Wednesday to discuss the violence, but there was no formal statement on the crisis.

Yesterday, Guterres said he was “deeply concerned” by the situation in Myanmar and called for “restraint and calm to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe”.

Members of the roughly one million-strong Rohingya community in Myanmar are accused of being illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

© AFP 2017, with additional reporting by Órla Ryan

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