Dec. 14 (UPI) -- At least 9,000 people died in Myanmar between Aug. 25 and Sept. 24, bringing the death toll during the first month of the military crackdown to almost 14,000 -- including 1,000 children under age 5.
The new findings by Doctors Without Borders reveal more than 647,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar into Bangladesh as police and local militias launch "clearance operations" allegedly in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. More than 70 percent of the deaths were caused by violence and 6,700 are Rohingya deaths. The Rohingya are a Muslim minority long denied citizenship by the predominantly Buddhist national government.
"We met and spoke with survivors of violence in Myanmar, who are now sheltering in overcrowded and unsanitary camps in 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 Dr. Sidney Wong, Doctors Without Borders medical director. "The peak in deaths coincides with the launch of the latest 'clearance operations' by Myanmar security forces in the last week of August."
The organization's surveys conclude at least 71 percent of the deaths were due to violence, even among children under 5 years old. Gunshots were the leading cause in violent deaths (69 percent), followed by being burnt to death (9 percent) and beaten to death (5 percent).
Out of the children below age 5 who were killed, 59 percent were shot, 15 percent were burnt to death in their home, 7 percent were beaten to death and 2 percent died in landmine blasts, according to the survey.
"The numbers of deaths are likely to be an underestimation as we have not surveyed all refugee settlements in Bangladesh and because the surveys don't account for the families who never made it out of Myanmar," Wong said. "We heard reports of entire families who perished after they were locked inside their homes, while they were set alight."
The U.N. Human Rights Chief condemned attacks against the Rohingya in Myanmar on Dec. 5 and called for a criminal investigation into those involved in the violence. In November, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the violence against the Rohingya qualifies as ethnic cleansing.