SCIAF boss: Rohingya '˜victims of crimes against humanity'

The head of a UK aid charity has said that the Rohingya people are victims of 'crimes against humanity'.

The Muslim minority refugees fleeing violence in their home state of Rakhine in Myanmar have described soldiers and Buddhist leaders carrying out a systematic campaign of murder and burning villages, accusations which military leaders have denied.

Alistair Dutton, director of the Scottish Catholic International Aid Fund (Sciaf), which has raised more than £160,000 to help the refugees, said: “I don’t know who’s guilty of what but what has happened are crimes against humanity.

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“The chopping people up, shooting them, burning bodies, torching villages, stealing belongings and driving people out their country – these are crimes against humanity whoever perpetrated them.”

Speaking on a visit to the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh, Mr Dutton said: “There are an overwhelming number of reports. Everyone spoken to has seen or knew of someone who had family killed.

“I think if these reports were verified they would quite clearly be crimes against humanity.”

Despite a recent agreement by the Bangladesh and Myanmar government for repatriation, refugees continue to arrive, joining some 646,000 who have braved the dangerous border crossing since the surge in violence after Rohingya militants reportedly attacked border posts in August.

Mr Dutton warned the crisis could last for years, stressing that Sciaf and charity partner Caritas Bangladesh were planning for the long term as the average length of time a person spends as a refugee is 17 years.

He added: “We’re here to help the Rohingya. No-one should be under any illusion that the recent Memorandum of Understanding between Myanmar and Bangladesh signals the end of this massive humanitarian disaster.

“The exile of the Rohingya refugees will almost certainly last for years and we will be here for as long as it takes.”

In early December around 30 refugees were arriving daily by boat from Myanmar to Shabrang Harbour at the Bangladesh border before being taken to the camp.

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One mother who made the crossing earlier this month said she saw children burned to death by the military.

Razia Begum, 30, said: “I saw some little children who were killed by being burned by fire.

“I felt very horrible because I did not know how I could protect my children and so I left for another place.”