At least 6,700 Rohingya Muslims died “horrific” deaths in the first month of Burma’s military crackdown in the country’s northern Rakhine state, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) revealed on Thursday.
The figure, which includes at least 730 children under the age of five, most of whom were shot, is the highest estimated death toll yet of the violence that erupted on August 25, triggering a mass exodus of over 620,000 Rohingya refugees from Burma, also known an Myanmar, into neighbouring Bangladesh.
“What we uncovered was staggering, both in terms of the numbers of people who reported a family member died as a result of violence, and the horrific ways in which they said they were killed or severely injured,” said the aid group’s medical director Sidney Wong.
MSF’s findings come from six surveys of more than 2,434 households sheltering in the overcrowded, squalid refugee camps along the Bangladeshi border.
While the organisation cautioned that the figures were a conservative estimate, the death toll still soars above Burmese military claims that only 400 people, including 376 “terrorists” were killed during their operations.
The new evidence backs United Nations claims that the Rohingya were targeted in mass atrocities by the Burmese security forces. Last week the UN said they could not rule out that genocide had been committed and called for the perpetrators to face an international criminal trial.
The survey shows that 69 per cent of the victims died from gunshot wounds, 9 per cent were burned alive inside houses and 5 per cent died from beatings.
Over the past three months, grieving mothers have described how their children were ripped from their arms, dashed against trees and thrown into raging fires.
At least six children interviewed by the Telegraph last month in Kutupalong and Balukhali refugee camps testified that parents had been killed by the military, in some cases in front of their own eyes.
Sadia, 9, described how she was running from Burmese soldiers with her three younger siblings when she witnessed their mother being cut down by gunfire. “I saw my mother slaughtered. I was crying the whole time,” she said.
Sisters Tosminara, 8, and Yasminara, 11, saw the aftermath of their father’s execution on mobile phone footage after he was dragged out of their home in Dudaing, Maungdauw. “He had a bullet wound in his eye and one in his side,” said Yasminara.
She described how their mother had told them to run for their lives but could not join them because of a disability. “Now we don’t know whether she is alive or dead,” she said.
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