Over 100,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled from religious violence and persecution in Myanmar, according to the Arakan Project, a non-profit advocacy group.
The violence against the ethnic minority in western Myanmar has led to a mass exodus in recent weeks, said the NGO’s director Chris Lewa, with at least 10,000 people fleeing by boat to neighbouring Thailand, as well as Bangladesh, India and Nepal.
Speaking to the Associated Press, Lewa said there has been a huge surge since 15 October, with an average of 900 people per day piling into cargo ships parked off Rakhine state; nearly 10,000 in less than two weeks, she noted.
Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist nation of 50 million, only recently emerged from half a century of military rule. It has an estimated 1.3 million Rohingya.
Though many Rohingya families arrived from neighbouring Bangladesh generations ago, almost all have been denied citizenship. In the past two years attacks by Buddhist mobs have left hundreds dead and 140,000 trapped in camps, where they live without access to adequate health care, education or jobs.
In recent months Myanmar authorities began an aggressive campaign to register Rohingya members as Bengalis, and label them as illegal migrants from Bangladesh.
The campaign has aggravated the situation for the Rohingya population. Villagers told AP that some of them were confined to their villages for weeks at a time for refusing to take part in the “verification” process, while others said they had been beaten or arrested.
Rakhine state authorities, however, denied knowledge of any abuse. “There’s nothing happening up there,” said state spokesman Win Myaing. “There are no arrests of suspects of RSO [Rohingya]. I haven’t heard anything like that.”
The United Nations, which has labelled the Rohingya as one of the most persecuted religious minorities in the world, earlier this year confirmed figures provided by Lewa about a mass exodus that began after communal violence broke out in June 2012, mostly targeting Rohingya.