More than 400,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh

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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Bangladesh accused neighboring Myanmar today of repeatedly violating its airspace with drones and helicopters. But Myanmar denied it, adding it's been reporting rations to refugees near the border.

Around 400,000 Muslims known as the Rohingya have fled mostly-Buddhist Myanmar into Bangladesh during the last month. The exodus began when Myanmar's military crackdown on an armed resistance by the long-persecuted Rohingya minority and burning Rohingya villages.

A United Nations official called the actions by Myanmar's military a, quote, textbook example of ethnic cleansing.

For more on the Rohingya refugee crisis, I'm joined by "Reuters'" Myanmar bureau chief, Antoni Slodkowski, via Skype from Bangkok in neighboring Thailand.

Antoni, let me start with the scenes that we have witnessed over the past several weeks. We're talking about hundreds of thousands of humans fleeing one country and going directly to Bangladesh, who don't really have the capacity to host them.

ANTONI SLODKOWSKI, MYANMAR BUREAU CHIEF, REUTERS: Yes, indeed. It's a horrible humanitarian disaster of epic proportions. We're seeing, as you said, hundreds of thousands of people who have fled Myanmar in a very short period of time, and the humanitarian agencies and the United Nations agencies in neighboring Bangladesh are struggling with the most basic supplies such as water, food, and sanitation. So, this is really a humanitarian disaster of huge proportions.

SREENIVASAN: What do we know about the burning of these villages that is driving so many of these refugees to cross the border?

SLODKOWSKI: So, the Myanmar government blames the Rohingya insurgents on the fires, but people who have crossed the border and organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, point the finger at the Myanmar military, saying that it's the Myanmar military organizing a campaign of arson and intimidation to drive the Rohingya out of Myanmar.

SREENIVASAN: Now, Aung San Suu Kyi, has chosen not to come to the U.N. General Assembly. Has she made many public statements about what's going on?

SLODKOWSKI: Many. She made a public statement in the immediate aftermath, praising the security forces and condemning attacks. And in subsequent appearances, she referred to these attacks as terrorism. But the silence is about to change because Suu Kyi is scheduled to deliver what's billed as the state of the union address on Tuesday. So, all eyes will be on her during that address.

SREENIVASAN: All right. Antoni Slodkowski, Myanmar bureau chief of "Reuters" joining us via Skype from Bangkok, Thailand, today — thanks so much.

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