The official death toll for this month’s communal clashes in western Burma rose to 62 on Thursday as Bangladesh’s security forces detained more Rohingya Muslims fleeing the violence and prepared to send them back.
Bangladesh has turned back more than 2,000 Rohingyas who tried to enter the country after the deadly violence between Rohingyas and ethnic Arakanese Buddhists erupted this month in neighboring Burma.
A total of 62 people had been killed and dozens wounded between June 8 and 19 in the sectarian unrest, Arakan State spokesman Win Myaing said on Thursday.
He said the last reported deaths occurred on Tuesday in Rathedaung Township, about 48 km north of the Arakan State capital Sittwe, when clashes took 12 lives, including two Muslims. Security forces restored calm there on Wednesday, he said.
On Thursday, Bangladesh detained 16 new Rohingyas fleeing the violence—men between the ages of 20 and 30, said Lt-Col Zahid Hasan, a commander of Bangladesh’s border troops. Hasan said they will be provided food and medicine for their journey, but did not say when.
Human rights groups have urged Bangladesh to accept the refugees. Dhaka says its resources are too strained.
“We are too scared to stay in Myanmar,” one of the detainees, Aminul Islam, told reporters. “Even the army in Myanmar is harassing us.”
Resentment between the communities is long-standing. Burma considers the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship. Bangladesh says Rohingyas have been living in Burma for centuries and should be recognized there as citizens.
In Arakan, thousands of homes have been burned down, and tens of thousands people displaced by the unrest.
Residents of Sittwe, which was the target of violence last week, said by phone Thursday that the city’s main market is still closed, though commercial banks have reopened.