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Hundreds of dead in the Rohingya conflict in Myanmar

Saturday, September 2nd, 2017 | World News

The situation seems clear to the Aung San Suu Kyi government in Myanmar: militant Rohingyas are now setting fire to villages in the northern state of Rakhine after military attacks on military posts.

But members of this Muslim minority in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar tell a different story.

According to them, soldiers, frontier guards and Buddhist residents of Rakhine houses – and shoot at Rohingyas. In a week, almost 400 people were killed in the recent violence, as the army announced on Friday. Almost 40,000 Rohingyas have fled the border to neighboring Bangladesh since the 25th August, as relief organizations report. The current ethnic violence is considered to be the worst since the 2012 unrest.

"We do not know when we will be dead," says Hla Tun, a Muslim resident on the phone. In the search for shelter, he fled from village to village. "I think this is an absolute disaster," says Chris Lewa, head of the nonprofit organization Arakan, who has observed the situation of the Rohingyas, which have been discriminating in Myanmar since generations. "I think they'll burn down all the villages one by one."

The organization, which is blamed by the government for the cremation, is called Arsa: Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army. It first attacked the military post in Rakhine in October 2016. The Arsa wants to build an "Islamic state" in the north of Rakhines, which is mainly inhabited by Rohingyas, said the national security adviser Thaung Tun on Tuesday diplomats.

The location is unclear. Arsa argues that she wants to restore the rights of the Muslim minority. She calls the world community for help but poses with armed men on the Internet.

Rohingyas are actually regarded as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh in the former Burma and are not recognized as citizens, even if they have been in the country for generations. About one million Rohingyas live in Rakhine, but they can not move freely and have no access to the school system.

The government of the Southeast Asian country had thousands of non-Muslims out of the conflict areas and warned of "extremist terrorists" targeting civilians. "People say that these Bengals (meaning Rohingyas) are lighting their homes themselves," says Tin Maung, a Buddhist resident of Maungdaw who sought refuge in the village of Buthidaung, to the south.

Thousands of Rohingyas have escaped to the Mayu Mountains before the violence, so it is assumed. Others are moving towards Bangladesh. But there many of the border soldiers are sent back or drowned in the border river and others are caught in the Niemandsland. The neighboring country sees the Rohingyas as a safety hazard – and hesitates to officially open the door.

The UN Security Council met behind closed doors last Wednesday to discuss the new crisis situation. Members called on the conflict parties to "de-escalate" the situation. But a resolution did not approve this highest body of the United Nations.

In Myanmar there is now a concern that the conflict could jump over to other areas in Rakhine. Food supplies for the Rohingya refugee camp in the town of Sittwe in the center of Rakhine were delayed, according to information from several volunteers.

The government accuses international aid organizations of complicity with militant Rohingyas. Thus, biscuits from the UN World Food Program were found in a suspected training camp, she wrote one day after the attacks of 25 August. A suspicion, which the US ambassador in Myanmar, Scott Marciel, is called "absurd".

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