DHAKA, Bangladesh — Thousands of Bangladeshis marched in the capital’s streets Friday to protest the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Burma, one of several similar rallies in the region.
Chanting “Stop killing Rohingya Muslims,” they marched in Dhaka as violence in Burma’s Rakhine state escalated, forcing thousands to leave their homes.
The protesters from several Islamic groups burned an effigy of Burma leader Aung San Suu Kyi and a flag of Burma. They carried banners reading “Open border to save the Rohingya.” Bangladesh’s southeast borders Burma.
Organizers said some 10,000 protesters joined the rally in Dhaka. Smaller protests occurred in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
Also, rights group Amnesty International asked Bangladesh not to forcibly send fleeing Rohingya back to Burma.
Up to 500,000 undocumented Rohingya have been living in Bangladesh after arriving from Burma in waves since the 1970s. Some 33,000 registered Rohingya refugees are lodged in two camps in southern Cox’s Bazar district.
Local media reported that a few thousand Rohingya Muslims have entered Bangladesh this week with the help of smugglers, but authorities didn’t confirm that.
Maj. Gen. Abul Hossain, director general of the Bangladesh Border Guard, said on Friday that “only some” arrived by boats.
On Thursday, Bangladeshi border guards did not allow at least a dozen boats carrying Rohingya to enter Bangladesh, said Lt. Col. Abu Jar Al Jahid, a commanding officer of the border agency in Cox’s Bazar’s Teknaf area.
Amnesty International condemned the persecution of Rohingya Muslims by Burma and Bangladesh’s unwillingness to accept them.
“The Rohingya are being squeezed by the callous actions of both the [Burma] and Bangladesh authorities. Fleeing collective punishment in Burma, they are being pushed back by the Bangladeshi authorities. Trapped between these cruel fates, their desperate need for food, water and medical care is not being addressed,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s South Asia director.
Burma’s security forces are mounting indiscriminate reprisal attacks against Rohingya in response to an Oct. 9 assault on three border posts that killed nine border officers, the rights group said in a statement on Thursday.
The group said it has heard accounts of Burma’s security forces, led by the military, firing at villagers from helicopter gunships, torching hundreds of homes, carrying out arbitrary arrests and raping women and girls.