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New Myanmar unrest panics Rohingya in border limbo

AFP  |  Bandarban (Bangladesh) 

Panic is gripping thousands of Rohingya Muslim refugees living in no-man's land on the Myanmar-border, with daily clashes between security forces and ethnic Rakhine insurgents.

Hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims have fled since a military crackdown started in 2017 - most to sprawling refugee camps in -- but many have been living in limbo on the border, unwilling to enter the camps or return home.

They are now caught on the sidelines of fighting between troops and the Arakan Army, a militant group seeking more autonomy for western Rakhine state's Buddhist-majority population.

"Heavy fighting is going on between the government troops and inside Myanmar," told AFP.

"The situation is very tense," he said, adding the security build-up and daily gunfire had created "panic".

Myanmar troops last week set up security camps and bunkers along the border after fighting saw 13 police killed.

Some of the fortifications are directly adjacent to a border fence running alongside a stream, and overlook shacks erected by an estimated 4,500 displaced Muslims living in the narrow strip of land.

said gunfire could frequently be heard after dark on the other side of the border. "Every night it is close by. The have set up 10 new posts near our camp. It's very intimidating," he told AFP.

In a statement issued Wednesday, the said it was "deeply concerned" about the situation in the area.

A official said they were aware of the border tensions. "We will talk to the relevant authorities to discuss what to do," said.

Rohingya in Buddhist-majority Myanmar have suffered decades of persecution. Impoverished western Rakhine state in particular is scarred by deep ethnic and religious hatred.

Refugees pouring into Bangladesh have detailed mass killings, arson and rape at the hands of Myanmar troops and Buddhist mobs.

Myanmar has denied any wrongdoing, saying it was defending itself against Rohingya militants who attacked police posts.

The has called for a genocide investigation into the crackdown.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, January 09 2019. 12:40 IST