World

Suu Kyi vows to protect 
all citizens

Myanmar leader insists government trying its best to enforce the law in strife-torn Rakhine

YANGON/COX'S BAZAR: Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi said yesterday her government was doing its best to protect everyone in the strife-torn state of Rakhine, as the estimated number of Rohingya Muslims who have fled to Bangladesh leapt by 18,000 in one day, to 164,000.

Ms Suu Kyi did not refer specifically to the exodus of the minority Rohingya, which was sparked by insurgent attacks on Aug 25 and an army counter-offensive, but said her administration was trying its best to take care of all citizens.

"We have to take care of our citizens, we have to take care of everybody who is in our country, whether or not they are our citizens," Ms Suu Kyi said in comments to Reuters Television's Indian partner, Asian News International.

"Of course, our resources are not as complete and adequate as we would like them to be but, still, we try our best and we want to make sure that everyone is entitled to the protection of the law," she said.

Boatloads of exhausted Rohingya continued to arrive in the Cox's Bazar region of neighbouring Bangladesh.

At least 12 people were missing after a wooden boat loaded with refugees capsized early yesterday, survivors told Reuters journalists in Cox's Bazar.

More than 30 bodies have washed up over the past week after boats capsized, officials say.

The latest estimates by UN workers operating in the region show arrivals in just 13 days stood at 164,000, up from 146,000 the day before.

UN officials in Bangladesh now estimate that the total number of refugees from Myanmar since Aug 25 could reach up to 300,000, said Mr Dipayan Bhattacharyya, Bangladesh spokesman for the World Food Programme.

The surge of refugees - many sick or wounded - has strained the resources of aid agencies and communities already helping hundreds of thousands of victims of previous spasms of violence in Myanmar.

Many have no shelter, and aid agencies are racing to provide clean water, sanitation and food.

"Many refugees are stranded in no-man's land at the border," medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said in a statement.

"Even prior to the most recent influx, many Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh lived in unsafe, overcrowded and unhygienic conditions, with little protection from the elements."

It said more nurses, midwives and doctors had been brought in to treat the refugees' injuries, wounds and obstetric issues. - REUTERS

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