Rohingya refugees who arrived from Rathedaung said the army and local Buddhists had joined hands to massacre villagers and burned their houses to the ground.
The survivors started arriving from Thursday night. So far, 120 Rohingyas from a Rathedaung village have arrived and more are coming. About 50 others are stranded on the Naf River.
One can only guess the extent of violence in Rathedaung, located some 77 kilometres from Maungdaw, where the Rohingyas claimed that at least 500 people have been killed in Shoap Praung village.
But the claim could not be verified independently.
Since the fresh round of violence erupted in Rakhine two weeks ago, these refugees crossed mountains, jungles and rivers before finally arriving on the bank of the Naf River.
An estimated 270,000 Rohingyas were forced to leave their homes and cross the border into Bangladesh after an insurgent attack on dozens of police posts and an army base on August 25 triggered the latest spell of violence.
They came on top of the estimated 75,000 Rohingyas who had fled violence in Rakhine last October. About 400,000 Rohingyas – both documented and undocumented – are believed to be living in Bangladesh.
Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingyas, often called one of the most persecuted communities in the world, and insist that they are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
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'Blood bath in Shoap Praung'
After August 25, the Rohingyas from Rathedaung's Shoap Praung village took shelter in the hills fearing attacks by the army. They stayed there for three days and walked for four days to reach Maungdaw, and from there to the border.
Three hundred Rohingya families lived in Shoap Praung, which had a population of about 1,400.
Survivors claimed that the “Mogh and Chak people” – local Buddhists – joined the army in the massacre and killed at least two members from every family.
Of the 120 survivors, who made it to Bangladesh, 75 have taken shelter at Teknaf's Teng Khali makeshift camp while the rest are at Kutupalong unregistered camp.
Mohammad Ilias, 13, was a student of Kajimul Ulum Madrasa in Shoap Praung. He saw four of his family members being killed.
“Around 2pm on August 25, the military surrounded our village and torched the houses,” Ilias recounted. “They dragged my family members out in the open and shot them.”
He lost his father Din Mohammad, and brothers Noman, Yaqub, and Ibrahim.
“I hid in a paddy storehouse and saw my mother and other women and children being rounded up in the yard. The Moghs took away jewelries from the women,” Ilias said.
Asked if the all the women and children were killed, he said the military spared a few.
Ilias’s cousin Neyamutullah was at the mosque and about to finish his Zuhr prayers when their village was attacked.
“We could hear gunshots from the mosque,” he said. “We realised that our village was under attack. I, along with some others, hid in a nearby house but the army set it afire. I alone managed to run away.
“I found my nephew Noman's body lying in front of his house. Near the local graveyard, I saw the Mogh people lynching Yaqub, who had already been shot by the army.”
Neyamutullah said the army also fired shots at him but missed.
Ilias fled to Bangladesh with his mother and other relatives.
Maulana Habibullah's four daughters were also killed. His wife, who was tortured by the Burmese military, managed to flee to Bangladesh with their four other children.
He claimed that Mogh people, wearing military uniforms, stabbed the girls to death.
“My wife Anwara Begum became mentally unstable ever since witnessing the killing of our daughters,” Habibullah, who taught at a Madrasa in Rathedaung, said.
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Mogh dressed in military uniforms
Rathedaung survivors alleged that local Rakhine Buddhists wearing military uniforms joined the army in the killing.
They said Rakhine Buddhists brought the military into the villages and gave them information about Rohingyas who had money.
“During the raid, the military nabbed rich Rohingyas and took ransom from them,” said Habibullah. “But they were killed anyway.”
Rohingyas from Rathedaung's Shoap Praung told the Dhaka Tribune that the military surrounded the village and opened fire. Then, the Moghs, wearing military dresses, slit throats of the Rohingyas with knives.
When this correspondent asked the refugees how they were sure that Moghs were donning military uniforms, they replied that those Moghs were their neighbours.
Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists have been living in Rathedaung side-by-side for a long time. The Rohingyas alleged that the Moghs were helping the Burmese military so that they can grab their land, the refugees said.
Good relations turn sour in Rakhine
Some of the Rathedaung refugees said the Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingyas once lived in harmony.
“They came to work in our fields and we went to their villages to work in their fields. We worked together,”Neyamutullah recalled.
Peace lasted until the 2012 sectarian violence. Since then, the Moghs started oppressing the Rohingyas, the refugees said.
“Even before August 25, Rakhines came to our villages and took away our domestic animals and sometimes even destroyed the paddy fields.” Habibullah said.
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Third time across the border
Mohammad Yusuf, who claims to be 105-year-old, is among the 120 refugees. It is the third time he has come to Bangladesh fleeing persecution.
The first time he crossed into Bangladesh was in 1978 and then in 1992. But he went back on both occasions after Bangladesh repatriated them.
But this time, things are different. Yusuf said he had lost everything and had no place to return.
“At first the military torched my house. When I came out, they took me to their post where many other Rohingyas had been brought. They kicked me and left me to die seeing that that I could barely walk,” Yusuf said.
The military killed some male Rohingyas and kept the women and children confined, he said.
“I did not dare to go back,” Yusuf said. “I walked towards the hills and joined the others.”
On Thursday, after walking for 12 days, he finally crossed into Bangladesh with hopes of a safe shelter.