By Associated Press
Bangladeshi authorities summoned Myanmar’s envoy to protest what they said were violations of their airspace amid an exodus of Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in western Myanmar.
Myanmar’s presidential spokesman on Saturday said there’s no evidence of any trespassing and that Dhaka should have reached out to discuss its concerns instead of issuing public statements.
The Bangladesh Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Friday that Myanmar drones and helicopters flew into Bangladeshi airspace on Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. It said a protest note was handed to Myanmar’s envoy Friday evening. Bangladesh warned that the “provocative acts” could lead to consequences.
In Yangon, presidential spokesman Zaw Htay said that while Myanmar’s military denied crossing into Bangladesh’s airspace, the matter is being investigated. “We don’t know exactly if they released that statement for political reasons,” he said of Bangladesh’s protest.
He added that his country was “transporting rations for displaced people for emergency assistance” to areas close to the border and that Bangladesh “needs to understand that as well.”
Up to 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled what they described as indiscriminate attacks by security forces and Buddhist mobs in Rakhine state since Aug. 25, when a Rohingya insurgent group attacked police posts and the military responded with “clearance operations.”
The U.N. has described the violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar as ethnic cleansing — a term that describes an organized effort to rid an area of an ethnic group by displacement, deportation or killing.
Ethnic Rohingya have faced persecution and discrimination in majority-Buddhist Myanmar for decades and are denied citizenship, even though many families have lived there for generations.
The Myanmar government says hundreds have died, mostly Rohingya “terrorists,” and that 176 out of 471 Rohingya villages have been abandoned.
Rights groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights watch have said that they have evidence that Myanmar troops were systematically targeting and setting Rohingya villages on fire over the last three weeks.
U.N. agencies fear continued violence in Myanmar may eventually drive up to 1 million Rohingya into Bangladesh.
Myanmar has insisted that Rohingya insurgents and fleeing villagers themselves are destroying their villages. It has offered no proof to back these charges.