HONG KONG — At least 123,000 Rohingya have fled from western Myanmar into neighboring Bangladesh since late last month, the United Nations said on Tuesday, as a military crackdown has destroyed villages and killed hundreds.
In recent days, a constant stream of desperate people has marched through muddy fields while attempting to escape the violence. At least 46 Rohingya died last week when boats capsized while crossing a river between the two countries, the Bangladeshi authorities said.
The Rohingya are a largely Muslim ethnic group who mainly live in Rakhine State in western Myanmar, where they face severe restrictions on basic rights. On Aug. 25, Rohingya militants attacked several police outposts and a military base, killing at least 12 members of security forces.
The Myanmar military says it killed 370 Rohingya fighters in response to that attack. Soldiers and Buddhist vigilantes have carried out a campaign against people in Rakhine State, and those who have fled described seeing civilians shot from helicopters and homes burned to the ground.
With villages still in flames in Rakhine State, the exodus that began last month is expected to continue, rights groups and United Nations officials said.
There are “clear signs that more will cross into Bangladesh from Myanmar before situation stabilizes,” Mohammed Abdiker, director of operations and emergencies for the United Nations migration agency, said on Twitter.
The “suffering will continue” without more international support, he added.
Migrant Offshore Aid Station, a humanitarian group based in Malta that has focused on protecting migrants who travel over dangerous maritime routes, said this week that it was shifting operations from the Mediterranean Sea to Southeast Asia to help with the Rohingya crisis.
Rakhine State is home to about one million Rohingya, and in addition to those who have fled, thousands more face a growing risk of violence and food shortages, Amnesty International said. Last month the government of Myanmar accused aid agencies of colluding with Rohingya militants, a claim that Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, called unsupported and irresponsible.
Aid agencies say the government has continued to block their access to Rakhine State, increasing the risk to people of all ethnic groups fleeing the violence. “By blocking access for humanitarian organizations, Myanmar’s authorities have put tens of thousands of people at risk and shown a callous disregard for human life,” Tirana Hassan, Amnesty International’s director for crisis response, said in a statement.
“Rakhine State is on the precipice of a humanitarian disaster,” she added.
The continuing violence has fanned criticism of Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s de facto leader and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate for her struggle against military rule. On Monday, she was confronted on Twitter by Malala Yousafzai, a fellow peace prize laureate, who asked Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi to speak out about the plight of the Rohingya. The governments of several predominantly Muslim countries, including Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and Turkey, have also expressed concern.
Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi and her government have argued that the Rohingya are migrants from Bangladesh who do not deserve citizenship rights, although most have roots in the area that go back generations.