Reuters demands Myanmar release 2 arrested journalists

Global 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 Myanmar Press Council says police have arrested two journalists working for an worldwide news organization on suspicion of possessing "secret police documents" related to the ongoing crisis in Rakhine state. The group says the deaths occurred during a one-month period starting in late August. "With very few independent aid groups able to access Maungdaw district in Rakhine, we fear for the fate of Rohingya people who are still there".

More than 647,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh since August, MSF says. The military operation, which many including United Nations calls as an "ethnic cleansing" led to a mass displacement of Rohingya civilians into Bangladesh.

Though more than 1 million ethnic Rohingya Muslims have lived in the country for generations, they were stripped of their citizenship, denied nearly all rights and labelled stateless.

Medecins Sans Frontieres, also known by its English name Doctors Without Borders, said its staff met and spoke with Rohingya refugees now sheltered in camps in neighboring Bangladesh and discovered a "staggering" numbers of victims and "horrific" stories of the death of family members in the violence. The government does not use the term Rohingya but calls them Bengali Muslims.

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According to MSF, 69 percent of the violence-related deaths were caused by gunshots, 9 percent were due to being burnt to death in their houses and 5 percent were beaten to death.

"It is abhorrent to make these people return to a place they have just recently fled with no guarantee they will be safe and will not be left at the mercy of their persecutors once again", its Bangladesh director Mark Pierce said in a statement.

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 Health Ministry has sent a field hospital to Bangladesh for Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, the General Staff said yesterday.

The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority who have long experienced persecution in Myanmar.

  • Carlos Nash