NEW DELHI -  India has stepped up security along its largely porous eastern border with Bangladesh and is using “chilli and stun grenades” to block the entry of Rohingya Muslims fleeing from violence in their homeland of Myanmar, officials said on Friday.

Border forces in Hindu-majority India, which wants to deport around 40,000 Rohingya already living in the country, citing security risks, have been authorised to use “rude and crude” methods to stop any infiltration attempts.

“We don’t want to cause any serious injury or arrest them, but we won’t tolerate Rohingya on Indian soil,” said a senior official with the Border Security Force (BSF) in New Delhi.

“We’re using grenades containing chilli spray to stop hundreds of Rohingyas trying to enter India ... the situation is tense,” added the official, who declined to be identified as he was not authorised to speak to media.

More than 420,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since Aug. 25, when a coordinated attack by Rohingya insurgents on Myanmar security forces triggered a counteroffensive, killing at least 400 people, mainly militants. The United Nations has called the assault a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Densely populated Bangladesh is struggling to shelter all the refugees desperate for space to set up shacks, sparking worries in India that the influx could spill into its territory.

R.P.S. Jaswal, a deputy inspector general of the BSF patrolling a large part of the border in India’s eastern state of West Bengal, said his troops were told to use both chilli grenades and stun grenades to push back the Rohingya.

A chilli grenade makes use of a naturally-occurring compound in chilli powder to cause severe irritation and temporarily immobilise its target.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist government is growing increasingly hostile towards the Rohingya in India, with Home Minister Rajnath Singh calling on Thursday for their deportation as illegal migrants.

Fresh fires, bomb

blast in Rakhine

Twenty homes caught fire and a bomb was detonated near a mosque in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, the government said Friday, the latest unrest in a region that has seen hundreds of thousands of Rohinyga Muslims flee in under a month.

The violence comes days after Myanmar’s civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi declared that the military had ceased its “clearance operations” in the border area.

The army claims it is trying to flush out Rohingya militants who attacked police posts on August 25.

But civilian refugees streaming into Bangladesh say they were terrorised by soldiers and vigilante Buddhist mobs who torched their villages to the ground.

The testimony, alongside satellite images of some 200 villages reduced to ash, have fuelled accusations that Myanmar’s army is systematically purging a Muslim minority haunted by years of persecution.

The UN has described the military campaign as “ethnic cleansing”.

The latest violence saw 20 homes catch fire in Maungdaw’s Kyain Chaung village on Thursday night, according to a statement posted by the government’s Information Committee.

“Security members went and checked the fire and are investigating its cause,” said the statement, adding that the flames burned through a community previously hit by fire.

The following morning a bomb detonated outside of a mosque in Mi Chaung Zay village in nearby Buthidaung township, according to the government.

The statement said “terrorists” were to blame for the blast, without specifying if they were linked to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) - the Rohingya militant group behind the ambushes on police posts. No deaths or injuries were reported in either incident.

Bangladesh’s PM at

UN urges ‘safe zones’

Bangladesh’s prime minister on Thursday proposed creating UN-supervised safe zones inside Myanmar to protect Rohingya Muslims who are fleeing a military crackdown to seek refuge in her country.

“These people must be able to return to their homeland in safety, security and dignity,” Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina told the UN General Assembly.

The United Nations says more than 420,000 Rohingya have fled for safety to Bangladesh in the face of an army campaign in northern Rakhine state that includes rape and the burning of villages.

The military operation was sparked by attacks carried out by Rohingya militants on police posts on August 25.

Hasina accused Myanmar authorities of laying landmines on the border to prevent the Rohingyas from returning and said the United Nations must take immediate measures to find a solution to the crisis. The prime minister laid out a five-point plan that called for the protection of the Rohingyas in “safe zones that could be created inside Myanmar under UN supervision.”

The United Nations has described the military operation as “ethnic cleansing” and French President Emmanuel Macron went further, describing it as a “genocide.”

Rohingya refugee camps on the brink of a ‘health disaster’: MSF

Bangladesh’s refugee camps are on the brink of a “public health disaster,” Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has warned, saying filthy water and faeces flow through shanties bursting with Rohingya Muslims who have fled violence in Myanmar.

Nearly 430,000 Rohingya have poured into Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar in under a month, seeking refuge from an army-led crackdown across the border in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which the UN has described as “ethnic cleansing”.

The weary and wounded arrivals have shocked the world with stories of Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist mobs driving them out of their homes with gunshots and arson attacks that have razed entire villages to ash. While Bangladesh has offered sanctuary from the terror, there are dire shortages of nearly all forms of relief in what has become one of the world’s largest refugee settlements in a matter of weeks. MSF on Thursday warned that a “massive scale-up of humanitarian aid is needed in Bangladesh to avoid a public health disaster”.

“We are receiving adults every day on the cusp of dying from dehydration,” said Kate White, the group’s emergency medical coordinator.

“That’s very rare among adults, and signals that a public health emergency could be just around the corner.”

UN needs $200 million for ‘catastrophic’ influx

The United Nations will need $200 million over the next six months to face the “catastrophic” influx of more than 420,000 Rohingya refugees to Bangladesh, a top UN official said Friday.

The Rohingya Muslims, escaping ethnic unrest in Myanmar, have overwhelmed Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar in under a month. The UN made an emergency appeal for $78 million on September 9, but UN resident coordinator in Bangladesh, Robert Watkins, said much more would be needed as the exodus grows.

“Our best estimate at this point is $200 million. We are putting together a plan right now that will be ready in about four or five days,” Watkins told AFP.

 

 

Reuters/AFP