Rohingya Muslims Who Remain in Myanmar Struggle to Survive

August 8, 2018 | By | Reply More

Most of Abdul Solay’s family joined last year’s vast exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar, as government troops torched homes and opened fire on villages in a spasm of ethnically motivated violence. Mr. Solay decided to stay behind—and now he is struggling to survive.

rohingyaJobless and landless, the 22-year-old ekes out a living catching fish in a nearby stream. His family’s five cows—once a source of wealth—were confiscated. If he ventures into town, he says, he is taunted by members of Myanmar’s Buddhist majority, who call him “kalar,” a derogatory term for foreigners.

More than 700,000 Rohingya, a mostly Muslim minority group, have fled to Bangladesh, where they are jammed into crowded refugee camps. For the roughly 600,000 still in Myanmar, according to United Nations estimates, the situation is precarious.

On a recent government-organized trip to Maungdaw district in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, The Wall Street Journal spoke to nearly a dozen Rohingya residents who said they lacked access to sufficient food, had been stripped of land and belongings, and faced severe restrictions on movement.

Maungdaw, home to Nga Khu Ya, was the center of last year’s bloodshed. A Rohingya militant group launched attacks on Aug. 25 on police posts in the district, and the army responded by ethnically cleansing the Rohingya, according to the U.N., citing Rohingya testimony of soldiers burning villages and shooting those who fled.

All along the main road in Maungdaw, there are destroyed and abandoned Rohingya villages. In one, only an outhouse remained standing. In another, an orange door hung on its hinges amid the charred ruins. Empty farm fields stretched for miles.

Aung Tun Thet, chief coordinator for the Myanmar government’s Rakhine resettlement and development office, said the government is meeting minimum food needs and has granted access to international humanitarian organizations to assist in these efforts.

International organizations that once provided food, supplies and medical services to Rohingya populations in Rakhine say their work has been sharply limited by new government restrictions on humanitarian operations.

“When you cut that lifeline, there is a very real human impact,” said Pierre Peron, spokesperson for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Myanmar.

Rohingya villagers interviewed by the Journal spoke warily, frequently glancing at nearby government escorts and generally declining to offer details of last year’s violence.

In Nga Khu Ya, Mr. Solay said he used to work as a day laborer on other people’s fields. The destruction of villages and mass departure of Rohingya, however, has devastated an already weak farming economy.

Press journalist for HRO media – Khizer Hayat reports.

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