Myanmar ‘laying landmines’ near Bangladesh border; Suu Kyi silent on Rohingya exodus

Myanmar has been laying landmines across a section of its border with Bangladesh, two government sources in Dhaka have told news agency Reuters, adding that the purpose may have been to prevent the return of Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence.

Bangladesh will on Wednesday formally lodge a protest against the laying of land mines so close to the border, said the sources, who had direct knowledge of the situation but asked not to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter, the agency reported.

“They are putting the landmines in their territory along the barbed-wire fence” between a series of border pillars, said one of the sources. Both sources said Bangladesh learned about the landmines mainly through photographic evidence and informers.

“Our forces have also seen three to four groups working near the barbed wire fence, putting something into the ground,” one of the sources said. “We then confirmed with our informers that they were laying land mines.”

The sources did not clarify if the groups were in uniform, but added that they were sure they were not Rohingya insurgents.

Manzurul Hassan Khan, a Bangladesh border guard officer, told Reuters earlier that two blasts were heard on Tuesday on the Myanmar side, after two on Monday fuelled speculation that Myanmar forces had laid land mines.

One boy had his left leg blown off on Tuesday near a border crossing before being brought to Bangladesh for treatment, while another boy suffered minor injuries, Khan said, adding that the blast could have been a mine explosion.

A Rohingya refugee who went to the site of the blast on Monday – on a footpath near where civilians fleeing violence are huddled in a no man’s land on the border – filmed what appeared to be a mine: a metal disc about 10 centimetres (4 inches) in diameter partially buried in the mud. He said he believed there were two more such devices buried in the ground.

Two refugees also told Reuters they saw members of the Myanmar army around the site in the immediate period preceding the Monday blasts, which occurred around 2:25 p.m.

Meanwhile, Myanmar’s “de-facto” leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday  blamed “terrorists” for “a huge iceberg of misinformation” on the violence in Rakhine state but made no mention of the nearly 125,000 Rohingya Muslims who have fled over the border to Bangladesh since Aug 25 due to a brutal campaign by the Myanmar military.

The leader of the Buddhist-majority country has come under pressure from countries with Muslim populations over the crisis, and on Tuesday UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned of the risk of ethnic cleansing and regional detribalisation.

In a rare letter expressing concern that the violence that has raged for nearly two weeks in the northeastern state could spiral into a “humanitarian catastrophe”, Guterres urged the UN Security Council to press for restraint and calm.

Aung San Suu Kyi spoke by telephone on Tuesday with Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, who has pressed world leaders to do more to help a population of roughly 1.1 million he says are facing genocide.

In a statement issued by her office on Facebook, Aung San Suu Kyi said the government had “already started defending all the people in Rakhine in the best way possible” and warned against misinformation that could mar relations with other countries.

Aung San Suu Kyi has been accused by Western critics of not speaking out for the minority that has long complained of persecution, and some have called for the Nobel Peace Prize she won in 1991 as a champion of democracy to be revoked.

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