Myanmar 'will provide aid to those displaced'

YANGON • Camps will be set up to provide aid for displaced Muslims inside Rakhine state, state-backed media said yesterday, the first time in a 16-day crisis that Myanmar's government has offered any relief for Rohingya scattered by violence, many to Bangladesh.

Around 290,000 Rohingya have fled since Aug 25 - when militant attacks sent unrest churning through Rakhine - arriving in Bangladesh tired and hungry, and squashing into overcrowded refugee camps.

Tens of thousands more are believed to be on the move inside Rakhine, fleeing burning villages, the army and ethnic Rakhine mobs - who Rohingya refugees accuse of attacking civilians - only to become stranded in hills without food, water, shelter or medical care.

Bangladesh has urged Myanmar to stem the exodus by providing for the displaced inside the country and "safe zones" for the Rohingya.

Several more Muslim villages were burned down yesterday in Rathedaung in northwest Myanmar, two sources said. "Slowly, one after another, villages are being burnt down - I believe that Rohingya are already wiped out completely from Rathedaung," said Ms Chris Lewa of Rohingya monitoring group The Arakan Project.

"There were 11 Muslim villages (in Rathedaung) and after the past two days, all appear to be destroyed."

It was unclear who set fire to the villages in a part of north-west Myanmar far from where Rohingya insurgents attacked 30 police posts and an army base last month.

Yesterday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Rohingya Muslims face systematic violence including torture, rape and murder in Myanmar.

At an event to send off two military planes transporting 12 tonnes of aid to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh, he also said he will raise the Rohingya issue with United States President Donald Trump when he visits the US on Tuesday.

Around 27,000 Buddhists and Hindus have also been displaced following attacks by Rohingya militants and are receiving government help in monasteries and schools.

Staff at the only hospital treating the wounded in the southern city of Chittagong in Bangladesh, some 200km north of the Myanmar border, said resources were strained.

The government will set up three camps in north, south and central Maungdaw - the violence's epicentre and a Rohingya majority area.

"Displaced people who are currently spread out will be able to receive humanitarian aid and medical care", distributed by local Red Cross workers, the Global New Light of Myanmar reported yesterday.

More than 350,000 Rohingya - a stateless group refused citizenship by Myanmar - have fled since last October when a new Rohingya militant group launched attacks on police posts. That number is around a third of the estimated total number of Rohingya in Myanmar. Around 120,000 have languished in camps following religious violence in 2012, while the rest are subject to suffocating restrictions.

Ms Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said last Friday that more than a thousand people may have been killed in the subsequent army crackdown, most of them likely being Rohingya.

She said Myanmar's star politician Aung San Suu Kyi had failed to use her moral authority to defend the Rohingya.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 10, 2017, with the headline 'Myanmar 'will provide aid to those displaced''. Print Edition | Subscribe