Khalsa Aid volunteers helping Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

A crying Rohingya mother in a yellow headscarf cradling her five-week-old infant son who died after their boat capsized is one of the most powerful Reuters images of Muslim refugees fleeing violence in Myanmar. "Some of them are quite traumatised", said Ravi Singh, founder of Khalsa Aid.

"They are living in conditions that are prime for the spread of diseases", she said.

An award-winning photographer from Bangladesh also arrested with the pair was later freed.

But China blocked a proposal from Egypt to add language on ensuring the right of return to the Rohingya sheltering in Bangladesh, diplomats said. Other refugees have stepped on deadly landmines, losing limbs or lives along the land border between Myanmar and Bangladesh.

"I think it is a defining moment in many ways for this new emerging democracy", Tillerson said, acknowledging that Myanmar's leader Suu Kyi found herself in a "difficult and complex situation".

The Rohingya are fleeing from a Myanmar military offensive in Rakhine that began after a series of guerrilla attacks on August 25 on security posts and an army camp.

Satellite sensors show that at least 80 major fires have torn across inhabited areas in northern Rakhine since 25 August, when the Myanmar army launched a military operation following attacks on police posts by the militant Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa).

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"I don't want to argue with the numbers, but if people are innocent, innocent villagers, they have no reason to flee away from their villages", he said.

The Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army has repeatedly distanced itself from worldwide militant groups, insisting its claims are local and in defence of major state repression.

Meanwhile, Zaw Htay, a spokesman for Myanmar's presidential office, said the reason people abandoned their homes was because many were told to leave by family members who were involved in terrorist activities.

The Southeast Asian nation's first civilian leader in decades has faced global condemnation for a lack of moral leadership regarding the Rohingya, victims of what the UN views as a campaign of ethnic cleansing. The government said its forces were engaged in a military counteroffensive against alleged "terrorists" involved in the attacks three weeks ago.

"They [the refugees] have become more desperate because of the weather", he said.

But almost forty percent of its Rohingya villages have been completely abandoned in the past three weeks, said government spokesman Zaw Htay.

Sources in New Delhi said that India would also continue to carefully avoid embarrassing Aung San Suu Kyi's Government in Nay Pyi Daw.


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