TEKNAF, Bangladesh – He trekked to Bangladesh as part of an exodus of a half million people from Myanmar, the largest refugee crisis to hit Asia in decades. But after climbing out of a boat on a creek on Friday, Mohamed Rafiq could go no further.
He collapsed onto a muddy spit of land cradling his wife in his lap — a limp figure so exhausted and so hungry she could no longer walk or even raise her wrists.
The couple had no food, no money, no idea what to do next. Their two traumatized children huddled close beside them, unsure what to make of the country they had arrived in just hours earlier, in the middle of the night.
Rafiq said their third child, an 8-month-old boy, had been left behind. Buddhist mobs in Myanmar burned the child to death, he said, after setting their village ablaze while security forces stood idly by — part of a systematic purge of ethnic Rohingya Muslims from Buddhist-majority Myanmar that the United Nations has condemned as “a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.”
Five weeks after the mass exodus began on Aug. 25, the U.N. says the total number of arrivals in Bangladesh has now topped a half a million.