WASHINGTON - Sri Lankan Buddhist monks have stormed a safe house for Rohingya refugees and forced United Nations authorities to relocate the group, officials said Tuesday.
The 31 refugees were housed in a detention center outside Colombo, the Sri Lankan capital, where they were placed after being found drifting in a boat off the coast earlier this year, fleeing violence in their native Myanmar.
One of the monks who broke into the U.N.-administered safe house was caught on video saying, "These are Rohingya terrorists who killed Buddhist monks in Myanmar."
Myanmar's Rahkine state, home to the Muslim Rohingya, has long been the center of religious tension in majority-Buddhist Myanmar.
Earlier Tuesday, the activist group Human Rights Watch accused the Myanmar military of committing "crimes against humanity" as hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims flee the violence in Rakhine State.
“The Burmese military is brutally expelling the Rohingya from northern Rakhine State,” said James Ross, legal and policy director at Human Rights Watch. “The massacres of villagers and mass arson driving people from their homes are all crimes against humanity.”
The United Nations says more than 400,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled to Bangladesh to escape persecution by the Myanmar government. According to the agency, 45,000 people have fled to Bangladesh in just the past two days.
The latest round of violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state erupted August 25 when a Rohingya insurgent group launched deadly attacks on security posts. Myanmar responded with military "clearance operations" to root out the rebels.
HRW accused the Myanmar military of committing “widespread and systematic” attacks directed at the Rohingya Muslims. The group said its research indicates crimes committed by the Myanmar military include “deportation and forced population transfers, murder and attempted murder, rape and other sexual assault.”
“Attaching a legal label to the ghastly crimes being committed by the Burmese military against Rohingya families may seem inconsequential,” Ross said. “But global recognition that crimes against humanity are taking place should stir the U.N. and concerned governments to action against the Burmese military to bring these crimes to an end.”
The U.N. announced Tuesday it would increase its humanitarian efforts in Bangladesh, though it warned that the increasing number of refugees arriving in the country has the potential to bring about “enormous hardship” if the flow is not stabilized.
“At the request of the Bangladesh authorities, UNHCR and our partners have scaled up protection and life-saving support to the new arrivals in Kutupalong and Nayapara camps, and extended this support to the informal settlements surrounding these camps,” the agency said in a statement.
According to the U.N. statement, a cargo jet landed Tuesday in Bangladesh stocked with 100 metric tons of supplies, including emergency shelter kits, kitchen sets, jerry cans, sleeping mats, solar lamps, and other non-food items.