Numbers of the Day: 6700 killed

At least 6,700 Rohingya Muslims, including many children, were killed in the first month of violence that erupted in Myanmar's troubled Rakhine state in August, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Thursday.

Myanmar government officials have strongly denied the allegations and blamed ARSA rebels for the violence.

She said the findings were staggering, in terms of the numbers of people who reported a family member dead as a result of violence and horrific ways in which they said they were killed or injured.

MSF says the dead included at least 730 children younger than 5.

More than 647,000 Rohingya have fled into Bangladesh since August, MSF says.

The crackdown, which followed raids against Myanmar police and security posts by Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) insurgents on August 25, pushed 655,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim minority to seek shelter in neighboring Bangladesh during the following months, according to the latest estimates published by the United Nations on Thursday.

Shawn Crispin, a senior representative for the Committee to Protect Journalists, also called on Myanmar authorities to "to immediately, unconditionally release" the journalists.

After an internal investigation, the Myanmar army in November exonerated itself of any blame regarding the crisis.

Worldwide aid and rights groups have accused the military of arson, killings and rapes of Rohingya villagers.

Though more than 1 million ethnic Rohingya Muslims have lived in the country for generations, they were stripped of their citizenship, denied nearly all rights and labelled stateless.

They have told of atrocities committed by security forces including gang rape, execution-style killings and the razing of entire villages, leading the United Nations to claim that the situation in Rakhine appears to be "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

Gunshots were the cause of death in most cases.

"It is abhorrent to make these people return to a place they have just recently fled with no guarantee they will be safe and will not be left at the mercy of their persecutors once again", its Bangladesh director Mark Pierce said in a statement.

"The number of deaths is likely to be an underestimation as we have not surveyed all refugee settlements in Bangladesh and because the surveys don't account for the families who never made it out of Myanmar", Wong added.

The Rohingya are a stateless Muslim minority who have long experienced persecution in Myanmar.

  • Marlene Weaver