An estimated 18,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled across the border into Bangladesh since Friday to escape the latest escalation of violence in western Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine state.
The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Wednesday that more are expected in the coming days as “hundreds and hundreds” remained stranded at the border, Reuters reports.
Violence erupted on Aug. 25 when Rohingya insurgents launched deadly coordinated attacks on dozens of state security stations. At least 109 people were killed during and after the the attacks, most of them insurgents, according to government figures.
The attacks occurred shortly after a sharp uptick in the deployment of Myanmar military troops to the volatile area, a move prompting the U.N. rights rapporteur to Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, to express “major concern.”
Rakhine is home to an estimated 1.1 million Rohingya, a stateless Muslim minority that has suffered decades of persecution. In 2012, deadly riots between Muslims and the majority Buddhists forced more than 100,000 Rohingya from their homes. The state has remained strictly segregated ever since.
Bangladesh already hosts hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees and has turned back thousands more, according to Reuters. In Oct. 2016, a smaller attack by insurgents triggered a counter-terror operation that ultimately sent some 74,000 Rohingya civilians fleeing across the border, bringing with them horrifying allegations of rape, torture, murder and fire.
The U.N. has concluded the “very likely commission of crimes against humanity” as the so-called “clearance operations” were carried out by the Myanmar military and other armed security forces. The Myanmar government’s treatment of the Rohingya has been likened to ethnic cleansing.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Tuesday that he condemns the recent attacks on security personnel, but urged restraint by all involved as the suspects are brought to justice. He further urged the government, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, to condemn inflammatory rhetoric that has proliferated in the local press and on social media since the attacks.
“This turn of events is deplorable,” Zeid said in a statement. “It was predicted and could have been prevented.”