At least 6,700 Rohingya were killed in Myanmar’s northern Rakhine state in the weeks following a brutal crackdown by authorities, according to an estimate released by the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) on Thursday.
MSF surveyed Rohingya refugees living in camps in Bangladesh, finding that an estimated 9,000 Rohingya died in Rakhine state between August 25-September 24, with 71 percent of the deaths caused by violence. Among the dead are at least 730 children under the age of 5, MSF said.
The findings show that the Rohingya were targeted by military, police and local militias when Myanmar authorities launched a crackdown on the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in Rakhine state.
Since August, more than 647,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh from Myanmar, where most live in precarious conditions in refugee camps in the Cox’s Bazar area.
“What we uncovered was staggering, both in terms of the numbers of people who reported a family member died as a result of violence, and the horrific ways in which they said they were killed or severely injured,” MSF Medical Director Dr. Sidney Wong said. “The peak in deaths coincides with the launch of the latest ‘clearance operations’ by Myanmar security forces in the last week of August.”
Most of the deaths (69 percent) were caused by gunshot wounds, followed by people who were burned to death in their homes (9 percent) or beaten to death (5 percent). Among the children, 2 percent died from landmines while 59 percent were killed by gunshots and 15 percent burned to death.
MSF said it was “premature” for the Bangladesh and Myanmar governments to sign any agreement for the return of the Rohginya to Rakhine state. A spokesperson for Myanmar A spokesman for State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi said last month that the two governments had agreed to a deal for the Rohingya to return.
“Rohingya should not be forced to return and their safety and rights need to be guaranteed before any such plans can be seriously considered,” the charity said.