YANGON: International aid group Doctors Without Borders, known by its French name MSF, said its field survey has found at least 6,700 Rohingya Muslims were killed between August and September in a crackdown by Burma’s security forces.
The MSF said in a statement that it had conducted the survey in refugee camps in Bangladesh, and estimated that at least 6,700 Rohingya died in Burma’s Rakhine state between 25 August and 24 September.
About 630,000 Rohingya have fled Burma into Bangladesh to escape what the United Nations has called “ethnic cleansing”.
The estimate of the number of deaths announced by the group compares to Burma’s government figure of 400 in September as a result of attacks on police posts by Rohingya militants.
According to MSF, the dead included at least 730 children younger than five. Burma’s Information Ministry had said that most of the 400 dead were “extremist terrorists” who died during the military’s “clearance operations.”
International aid and rights groups have accused the military of arson, killings and rapes of Rohingya villagers. Burmese authorities blamed Rohingya militants for the violence.
Though more than 1 million ethnic Rohingya Muslims have lived in the country for generations, they were stripped of their citizenship, denied almost all rights and labelled stateless.
MSF said the numbers of deaths are likely to be an underestimation “as we have not surveyed all refugee resettlements in Bangladesh because the surveys don’t account for the families who never made it out of Burma”.
“The peak in deaths coincides with the launch of the latest ‘clearance operations’ by Burma security forces in the last week of August,” MSF Medical director, Sidney Wong, in a statement.
She said the findings were staggering, both in terms of the numbers of people who reported a family member dead as a result of violence, and horrific ways in which they said they were killed or severely injured.
MSF said that among children below the age of five, more than 59 per cent who were killed during that period were reportedly shot, 15 per cent burnt to death in their homes, 7 per cent beaten to death and 2 per cent died due to land mine blasts.