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UN says people fleeing Myanmar’s Rakhine state

November 1, 2013

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. refugee agency says more than 1,500 people fleeing Myanmar’s volatile Rakhine state boarded rickety boats last week in the Bay of Bengal.

Unrest began last year in western Rakhine where Buddhists accuse the Rohingya Muslim community of illegally entering the country and encroaching on their land.

U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said Friday the violence has spurred a dramatic increase in departures via the Bay of Bengal. He did not indicate where they were headed.

He said the refugee agency received reports that people not only fled northern Rakhine last week but also drowned.

Nesirky said UNHCR “is afraid that as the rainy season comes to an end and sailing season starts in earnest, more people could feel compelled to leave by boat, subjecting themselves to exploitation by smugglers.”