Yangon: The official death toll for this month`s communal clashes in western Myanmar 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 Rakhine Buddhists erupted this month in neighbouring Myanmar.
A total of 62 people had been killed and dozens wounded between June 8 and 19 in the sectarian unrest, Rakhine state spokesman Win Myaing said Thursday.
He said the last reported deaths occurred Tuesday in Yathetaung township, about 48 kilometers north of the Rakhine state capital, Sittwe, when clashes took 12 lives, including two Muslims. Security forces restored calm there yesterday, he said.
Today, Bangladesh detained 16 new Rohingyas fleeing the violence, men between ages 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. Myanmar considers the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh and denies them citizenship. Bangladesh says Rohingyas have been living in Myanmar for centuries and should be recognised there as citizens.
In Rakhine, 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 today that the city`s main market is still closed, though commercial banks have reopened.