(AFP) – Jun 13, 2012
WASHINGTON — The United States on Wednesday voiced concern that Bangladesh was turning away Muslims fleeing religious violence in Myanmar and urged the Dhaka government not to send them back.
"We are concerned that Bangladeshi authorities appear to have intercepted and turned back persons fleeing the ethnic and religious violence in Burma," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, using Myanmar's former name.
"We have been urging the government of Bangladesh to respect its international obligations under the relevant refugee conventions and to continue its longstanding policy of non-refoulement of refugees," she said.
Non-refoulement refers to a principle of international law that forbids turning over a victim of persecution to his or her persecutor.
Bangladeshi guards have turned back 16 boats carrying more than 660 Rohingya Muslims, most of them women and children, since Monday as they tried to enter from Myanmar across the river Naf, according to local officials.
Around 25 people have been killed and a further 41 people were wounded in five days of unrest in western Myanmar between Buddhists and Muslims.
The Rohingya are considered one of the world's most persecuted groups, with Myanmar not officially recognizing them as a minority.
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