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Five die as boat carrying Rohingya Muslims fleeing Burma overturns


Members of the Rohingya minority walk through rice fields after crossing the border from Burma into Bangladesh (AP)

Members of the Rohingya minority walk through rice fields after crossing the border from Burma into Bangladesh (AP)

Members of the Rohingya minority walk through rice fields after crossing the border from Burma into Bangladesh (AP)

A trawler carrying Rohingya Muslims fleeing violence in Burma has capsized, drowning at least five people, as the UN said the crisis has pushed more than 125,000 refugees into Bangladesh.

Residents of Shah Porir Dwip fishing village recovered five bodies from the Bay of Bengal, hours after the boat capsized at around midnight, said police official Yakub Ali.

It is not clear where the boat began its journey, or if the passengers had been among 450 detained by Bangladeshi border guards and ordered on Tuesday to return to Burma.

While some border guards were letting refugees across the borders, others were sending them back.

Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi has blamed a misinformation campaign for fuelling the crisis.

Faced with mounting numbers and a lack of space and basic supplies, Bangladesh said it will set up a new camp to accommodate Rohingya refugees who have arrived from Burma since August 25, many walking for days and crossing jungles and rivers to reach safety.

Shah Kamal of the Ministry of Disaster Management did not say when the new camp would be ready. He said it will be established in Tyingkhali, south of Cox's Bazar district and near the established camp in Balukhali where more than 50,000 Rohingya have been sheltering since October.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina has asked officials to prepare a database with fingerprints for the new arrivals.

The number of Rohingya fleeing western Rakhine state has reached more than 125,000, 80% of whom are women and children, said Unicef executive director Anthony Lake.

"Many more children in need of support and protection remain in the areas of northern Rakhine state that have been wracked by violence," he said in a statement, adding that the UN refugee agency has no access to Rakhine trouble spots.

"We are unable to reach the 28,000 children to whom we were previously providing psycho-social care or the more than 4,000 children who were treated for malnutrition in Buthidaung and Maungdaw" in Rakhine, he said.

"Our clean water and sanitation work has been suspended, as have school repairs that were under way."

The violence and civilian suffering have prompted international condemnation and resonated particularly in many Muslim countries.

Ms Suu Kyi complained to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a phone call that Turkey's deputy prime minister was a victim of fake news when he posted photos purportedly showing dead Rohingya that were not related to the crisis.

The photos on Mehmet Simsek's Twitter account have since been taken down.

According to her office, Ms Suu Kyi said such misinformation helps promote the interests of "terrorists", a reference to Rohingya insurgents whose deadly attacks on Burmese security posts on August 25 triggered the latest military crackdown and streams of refugees.

The military has said nearly 400 people, most of them insurgents, have died in clashes. Security forces responded to the attacks with days of "clearance operations" the government says were aimed at rooting out insurgents it accuses of setting fire to Rohingya villages.

Many displaced Rohingya, however, say it was Burmese soldiers who set their homes on fire and fired indiscriminately around villages in Rakhine state.

Rohingya Muslims have long faced discrimination in the majority-Buddhist south-east Asian country.

Turkey said Burma agreed to allow its aid officials to enter Rakhine state with a ton of food and goods for Rohingya.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said it was crucial for Burma's government to immediately give Rohingya either nationality or legal status so they can lead normal lives and freely move, find jobs and get an education.

He cited a long-standing history of "discrimination, hopelessness and extreme poverty" for Rohingya and warned of possible ethnic cleansing.