Dozens of Rohingya women and children desperate to flee the violence in Myanmar are drowning while attempting to escape to Bangladesh by boat.
A Bangladeshi border guard, who asked not to be identified, told CNN guards had retrieved eight bodies on the Bangladeshi side of the Naf River on Wednesday alone, half of whom were children.
“It was a case of a boat capsizing,” he said. ” (But) this has been happening from day one … Since then, around 60 to 65 bodies have arrived south (of the border area.) In other areas, maybe 10 to 15.”
The border guard sent CNN photos appearing to showing young children lying dead on the banks of the Naf River.
“No-one comes to collect these bodies. These people are so distressed, they are walking, coming across fields for five days, they hardly recognize their own relatives,” he said.
At least 164,000 refugees have fled their homes in Rakhine State in western Myanmar since August 25, to escape conflict between the military and Rohingya militants, according to the Inter Sector Coordination Group (ISCG), a grouping of humanitarian agencies in Bangladesh.
The UN expects that number could rise as high as 300,000 by the year’s end — almost a third of the estimated one million Rohingya people, a stateless Muslim minority in Myanmar.
The border guard said some Rohingya have been paying fishermen as much as $250 per person to ferry them across the river on “very risky” boats.
“They are not designed to travel on this rough sea, they are taking long detour. It’s not only the type of boat, it is the capacity, only made for five, six, or 10 people and they are taking double or triple that number sometimes,” he said.
The Rohingya are considered to be among the world’s most persecuted people — with predominantly Buddhist Myanmar saying they are Bangladeshi and Bangladesh saying they’re Burmese.
The government of Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, blames terrorists for starting the violence. Rohingya militants killed 12 security officers in border post attacks almost two weeks ago, according to state media, intensifying the latest crackdown.