New images highlight destruction of Rohingya villages in Myanmar

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An overcrowded boat carrying Rohingya Muslims fleeing Myanmar capsized Monday in the Bay of Bengal near a Bangladeshi fishing village, killing 12 people, including six children, police said.

The new exodus comes amid media reports pressure by the Myanmar government led to the toning down of a damning report into the diet of Rohingya refugees.

Since the weekend a fresh wave of up to 20,000 crossed the border into Bangladesh where more than half a million others are already living in squalid and overcrowded camps to escape violence.

An analysis of newly released satellite images revealed 288 Rohingya villages were targeted in arson attacks in Rakhine since August 25, and 66 of those villages were burned after Myanmar officials claimed the military's "clearance operations" in Rakhine state had ceased in early September, Human Rights Watch reported Tuesday.

While the State Department has been able to get a few of its personnel from the embassy in Myanmar into Rakhine state to assess the situation, Tillerson encouraged greater access for humanitarian agencies such as the Red Cross, Red Crescent as well as other agencies from the UN.

Yet the sheer number of Rohingya refugees negates the disclaimer.

"As of this morning they are still squatting in the paddy fields of Anjuman Para village in Bangladesh", he said.

Designating the Rohingya as victims of genocide under a 1948 United Nations convention would increase pressure on the global community to take action to protect them, and could expose Myanmar officials to a greater threat of worldwide justice.

As he wrapped up a two-day visit to Bangladesh during which he toured a refugee camp in the southeast, Deputy Prime Minister Zahid Ahmad Hamidi announced some Malaysian government proposals aimed at alleviating the refugee crisis stemming from violence across the border in Rakhine state.

On Aug. 25, a Rohingya insurgent group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked at least 30 security posts on Aug. 25, causing dozens of casualties, according to Myanmar authorities.

The UN has described the violence in Rakhine as a textbook case of ethnic cleansing, with displaced Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh describing whole villages being razed, gang rapes and massacres.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a militant group, claimed responsibility for the attacks as well as for deadly smaller-scale raids on three border guard stations in October 2016.

"There are now nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh: the 582,000 (who fled Myanmar since August 25 this year) joined the 400,000 who had already fled there following previous periods of targeted attacks, notably in 2012 and 2016".

Reported byBenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.