All eyes are on the humanitarian crisis, but what impact will the Rohingya exodus have on the region as a whole?
Bangladesh’s foreign minister has said that “a genocide” is being waged in Myanmar’s violence-hit Rakhine State, triggering an exodus of nearly 300,000 Rohingya to his country.
“The international community is saying it is a genocide. We also say it is a genocide,” AH Mahmood Ali told reporters after briefing diplomats in Dhaka on Sunday.
Ali met Western and Arab diplomats and the heads of UN agencies based in Bangladesh to seek support for a political solution and humanitarian aid for the Rohingya.
He told the diplomats that some 300,000 Rohingya had fled to Bangladesh in the past two weeks, taking the total number of such refugees in the country to more than 700,000.
“It is now a national problem,” Ali said.
At least two diplomats who attended the briefings said the minister told them as many as 3,000 people may have been killed in the latest round of violence, which is a much higher estimate than the 1,000 previously reported by the United Nations.
The UN said 294,000 Rohingya refugees have arrived in Bangladesh since attacks by Rohingya fighters on Myanmar security forces in Rakhine on August 25 sparked a major military backlash.
Tens of thousands more are believed to be on the move inside Rakhine.
Ali’s comments come as the chair of Bangladesh’s National Commission for Human Rights said leading figures in Myanmar could face trial for “genocide” at an international tribunal.
“The way the genocide has been carried out in Myanmar, the way the people were killed in arson attacks, we are thinking about pressing for a trial against Myanmar, and against the Myanmar army at an international tribunal,” Kazi Reazul Hoque said on Sunday while visiting a refugee camp in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, near the border with Myanmar.
“We will come to a decision after assessing what are the steps that should be taken to that end. And at the same time we urge the international community to come forward with their help,” Hoque said.
The mainly Muslim minority, who live primarily in Rakhine State, is not recognised as an ethnic group in Myanmar, despite having lived there for generations.
They have been denied citizenship and are stateless.
Many in the Buddhist-majority country consider the Rohingya “Bengali”, rejecting the term Rohingya as a recent invention.
Bangladesh’s Ali accused Myanmar of running a “malicious propaganda” campaign to term the Rohingya as “illegal migrants from Bangladesh” and the fighters as “Bengali terrorists”.
Ali described actions following the attacks on security forces on August 25 as “revenge” by Myanmar troops.
“Should all people be killed? Should all villages be burnt? It is not acceptable,” he said, adding that Dhaka was seeking a peaceful solution, not a “war” against Myanmar.
“We did not create the problem. Since the problem started in Myanmar, that’s why they should resolve. We have said we’ll help them,” he said, adding that the problem took a “new turn” after the August 25 attacks.
Al Jazeera’s Divya Gopalan, reporting from Cox’s Bazar, said that Ali’s comments are significant because it “means they are making a much harder effort to get more international help”.
She said, however, that many in Cox’s Bazar would say the government’s aid so far has been “inadequate”.
“You can ask anyone here, and they will say that they haven’t received government help,” she said.
“What we are mostly seeing are local charities filling the void and locals helping out.”
Bangladesh has also been criticised for turning back hundreds of Rohingya refugees at its border with Myanmar.
Earlier this year, it had resurrected a proposal to relocate tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees to a remote island that is prone to flooding. The plan has been decried by human rights groups.
A commission led by former UN chief Kofi Annan last month said Myanmar must scrap restrictions on movement and citizenship for its Rohingya minority if it wants to bring peace to Rakhine State.
Ali called on the international community to urge the Myanmar government to immediately implement the recommendations of the commission’s report “in its entirety”.