"Roughly 60,000 [refugees from Myanmar] have arrived in Bangladesh since the violence erupted on Aug. 25," United Nations Refugee Agency representative Vivian Tan said Saturday, a markedly higher estimate than the 27,000 the U.N. reported Thursday. As many as 20,000 refugees are believed to be stuck at the river which separates the two countries.
The refugees are members of the Rohingya Muslim community, an ethnic minority group in Myanmar. Violence broke out after Rohingya militants clashed with Myanmar security forces, and the civilians who fled report being attacked by militants, government troops, and Buddhist mobs alike. Human Rights Watch took satellite photos of one village which appear to show "complete and total" destruction, with 99 percent of buildings ruined.
The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) on Saturday suspended food aid in Myanmar's Rakhine State, the area the refugees are leaving, citing safety concerns. "We are coordinating with the authorities to resume distributions for all affected communities as soon as possible," said a WFP statement, "including for any people newly affected by the current unrest."
"We fled to Bangladesh to save our lives," one refugee told The Associated Press. "The military and extremist Rakhine are burning us, burning us, killing us, setting our village on fire," he added. "The military destroyed everything. After killing some Rohingya, the military burned their houses and shops."