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270,000 Rohingya Have Fled Myanmar Horror In Two Weeks

Refugees are pouring over the Bangladesh border.
Photo by Danish Siddiqui/ Reuters

This article originally appeared on VICE News.

Over a quarter of a million refugees from Myanmar's Muslim Rohingya ethnic group have poured over the border into teeming camps and makeshift shelters in Bangladesh over the past two weeks. They're fleeing a brutal campaign of executions, sexual violence and village-burning allegedly being waged by government forces.

The latest outbreak in violence, which has killed at least 1,000 people, threatens to destabilize Myanmar's neighbors and permanently tarnish the reputation of the country's leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who was once widely revered as a democratic icon for helping to end Myanmar's decades of military rule.


The new refugee estimate of 270,000, released Friday by the United Nations, represents roughly a quarter of the country's entire Rohingya population. Their exodus from the Rakhine region accelerated dramatically after fighting erupted on August 25 between Rohingya militants and government forces.

The humanitarian catastrophe has brought calls to strip Myanmar's de facto leader, Suu Kyi, of the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1991 for her non-violent pro-democratic activism against the country's ruling military junta.

Two other Nobel Peace Prize recipients, Desmond Tutu and Malala Yousafzai, called on Suu Kyi this week to take steps to mitigate the spiraling crisis. Suu Kyi has blamed "terrorists" for a "huge iceberg of misinformation" about the violence.

Though fake images have circulated in recent weeks, few human rights observers are buying Suu Kyi's excuses.

"As we witness the unfolding horror we pray for you to be courageous and resilient again," Tutu wrote in a Facebook post addressed to Suu Kyi. "We pray for you to intervene in the escalating crisis and guide your people back towards the path of righteousness."

Malala posted on Twitter: "My heart breaks at the suffering of the Rohingya muslims."

She called on Suu Kyi, whom she addressed as "my fellow Nobel Laureate," to help "stop the violence."

As of Friday, over 390,000 people had signed an online petition calling for Suu Kyi's Nobel to be withdrawn.

The crisis, meanwhile, shows no sign of slowing down. CNN reportedThursday, citing an unnamed Bangladeshi border guard, that Myanmar's military may be placing landmines on the path of fleeing refugees.