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9440News on Rohingya Muslims: The Hidden Genocide

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  • Zafar Khan
    Dec 24, 2012
      The Hidden Genocide
      This is the story of a people fleeing the land where they were born - the Muslim Rohingya of Myanmar.
      Al Jazeera Investigates Last Modified: 09 Dec 2012 09:33


      Earlier this year a Buddhist woman was raped and murdered in western Myanmar. The authorities charged three Muslim men.

      A week later, 10 Muslims were murdered in a revenge attack. What happened next was hidden from the outside world.

      Bloodshed pitted Buddhists against minority Rohingya Muslims. Many Rohingya fled their homes, which were burned down in what they said was a deliberate attempt by the predominantly Buddhist government to drive them out of the country.

      "They were shooting and we were also fighting. The fields were filled with bodies and soaked with blood," says Mohammed Islam, who fled with his family to Bangladesh.

      There are 400,000 Rohingya languishing in Bangladesh. For more than three decades, waves of refugees have fled Myanmar. But the government of Bangladesh considers the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants, as does the government of Myanmar. They have no legal rights and nowhere to go.

      This is a story of a people fleeing the land where they were born, of a people deprived of citizenship in their homeland. It is the story of the Rohingya of western Myanmar, whose very existence as a people is denied.

      Professor William Schabas, the former president of the International Association of Genocide Scholars, says: "When you see measures preventing births, trying to deny the identity of the people, hoping to see that they really are eventually, that they no longer exist; denying their history, denying the legitimacy of their right to live where they live, these are all warning signs that mean it's not frivolous to envisage the use of the term genocide."

      Trapped inside Burma's refugee camps, the Rohingya people call for recognition
      Muslim group languishes in makeshift homes with no work, no schools and no citizenship rights from Burmese government
      Kate Hodal in Sittwe, Myaybon and Pauktaw, Burma
      The Guardian, Thursday 20 December 2012 14.23 GMT


      The helicopter cuts a sharp arc away from the sea and sweeps over pagoda-topped hills and dusty farmland until a mass of dirty white tents comes into view. Soon throngs of people can be seen coming out of their makeshift homes and rushing towards the airfield, until they resemble a human fence, snaking five-deep around the camp. There are mothers in pastel hijabs, men in T-shirts and longyis, and naked children clutching on to grandparents, jostling for space among puddles and dust, held back by guards with rifles.

      Here at Pauktaw refugee camp in Rakhine state – home to the inhabitants of five Rohingya Muslim villages who fled intercommunal conflict in western Burma this year – there are no schools, no work and no fields to cultivate – because no one is allowed to leave. When a helicopter lands, they hope it will bring either more supplies or some end to a way of life that has been unchanged for six months.

      Since June Rakhine state, on the border with Bangladesh, has been ripped apart by violence between the majority Rakhine Buddhists and minority Rohingya Muslims, sparked by the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman. Thousands of homes have been destroyed, 200 people have been killed and more than 115,000 displaced.

      Communities that once co-existed peacefully have been sent to segregated refugee camps all around the state, the majority of them filled with Rohingya – a population of roughly 800,000 who claim to be rightful citizens of Burma but whom the Burmese government widely calls "Bengali immigrants", denying them citizenship and placing restrictions on their rights to travel, attend higher education and even marry.

      Accompanying a high-level delegation of Burmese officials and British diplomats – including the British ambassador to Burma, Andrew Heyn, and the minister for south-east Asia, Hugo Swire – to five refugee camps over a two-day period, the Guardian was escorted by gun-wielding Buddhist border guards to meet Pauktaw camp's Muslim leaders, who sit cross-legged on plastic sheeting underneath ripped tents suspended by salvaged wood.

      Entirely reliant on aid, they said they needed greater medical care and want recognition as an ethnic group. "Rakhines came to our villages and burned down our houses, that's why we're here," said one elder, his hands clasped tightly at his waist. "We've been living here for generations and never had a situation like this, so I don't know why it happened. But now we have no documents – everything was burnt."

      Tents are so scarce that many families have cobbled together thatch-and-corrugated iron shelters, sleeping on hay and torn blankets. Those that do exist bear Saudi Arabia's logo, but they are torn and thin – leftovers from a huge aid donation during cyclone Nargis. Aid workers said the UNHCR has been forbidden to provide the camp with new tents, but the reasons were unclear from both U Hla Maung Tin, chief minister of Rakhine state, and General Zaw Winn, Burma's deputy minister for border affairs, both of whom were part of the visiting delegation.

      The British government is Burma's largest aid donor and through various NGOs is providing water, sanitation and healthcare to about 58,000 Buddhists and Muslims across the state. But camp conditions vary wildly in their size and ethnicity. In Mingan, a Rakhine camp of 300 people in Sittwe, water pumps, kitchen crops and rubbish bins make neat little rows next to the newly issued tents and their inhabitants are allowed to go into town and work. In contrast, none of the Rohingya the Guardian met said they were allowed to leave – "for their own security", officials explain – and they have watched instead as their farmland and animals have been taken over by Rakhine Buddhists.

      Villages razed since the conflict began this summer, and reignited in October, have turned into breeding grounds for discontent. In Sittwe, the regional capital where much of the violence took place, the city is segregated along Muslim and Buddhist lines and a tight curfew is still in place. "It is impossible for the Muslims to stay here now," said Cho Cho Lwin, 41, from her tent in Mingan. "If we forgive them, they'll just do it again. They have always wanted to expand their land but until now didn't have the chance."

      Many Burmese believe the Rohingya are illegal Bengali immigrants who crossed over from Bangladesh during the British occupation, and who aim to turn Rakhine into a Muslim state. As many Rakhine are fervent nationalists – Rakhine was an independent kingdom until 1784 – they worry that the Rohingya are extremists in disguise.

      "There are outside radical elements [at play] and [the Rohingya issue] is a tool of Islamicisation," said Oo Hla Saw of the Rakhine Nationalities Development party (RNDP). "That is why we are afraid."

      Most Burmese refuse to consider the Rohingya as an ethnic group and claim the name has been fabricated and used to win international support. Anti-Rohingya animosity is so strong that it can be felt ddown in the former capital, Rangoon, where discussions on the issue turn into rants about Burma's porous borders and a government that has been too soft on the "illegal Bengalis".

      While the government has seemingly taken steps to address the issue, a Rakhine inquiry commission set up in August raised eyebrows after it emerged there was not a single Rohingya representative on the commission, yet its chairman, Aye Maung, heads the RNDP, and another of its representatives, Ko Ko Gyi, has previously stated that Rohingya are "invading" Burma.

      Multiple allegations of abuse against Rohingya by security forces, including rape and torture, have been lodged with human rights groups, who have expressed concern about the prevalence of Muslims in detention. According to official figures released last week, more than 1,100 suspects have been detained in connection with this year's violence, three-quarters of whom are Rohingya.

      Abu Tahay, of the Rohingya political group National Democratic Party for Development, says the authorities have acted without warrants and Rohingya detainees have been held without bail or access to lawyers.

      The Burmese government has been quick to deny international media reports of genocide and has described the situation as an intercommunal conflict caused by underdevelopment in the state. Last month President Thein Sein promised that his government would look at a range of solutions – among them resettlement and citizenship – in what has become Burma's most pressing conflict since its transition to democracy last year.

      Local immigration authorities recently began the mammoth task of verifying the citizenship of Rakhine's Muslim population in an effort to settle the explosive question. While some Rohingya hold temporary registration cards that grant them the right to vote but little else, citizenship revolves around a contentious 1982 law requiring proof that the past three generations of an applicant's family have lived in Burma. It is a touchy subject for Rohingya, many of whom lack any documentation but insist that their ancestors were born and bred in the state.

      The census is expected to continue until 2014, although it is still unclear whether Buddhist and Muslim communities will be expected to live together once more or will continue to be segregated. It is also unknown what will happen to those who are incapable of providing documentation.

      Swire – who initially travelled to Burma to lead a trade delegation – said "conditions [in Rakhine] remain extremely worrying" and stressed that without greater determination and urgent action "this tragedy will continue to deepen for all concerned".

      To date, Aung San Suu Kyi – who is considered internationally as Burma's most unifying political figure and who has previously stressed the significance of ethnic rights – has been largely absent from debates on the issue and it is unclear why she has not played a greater role.

      However, analysts largely believe her reticence may stem from a political desire to maintain majority Burman votes for her NLD party, particularly in the runup to the 2015 parliamentary elections.

      According to Swire, who briefly met Aung San Suu Kyi and raised the Rohingya issue, the Nobel laureate is prepared to help in the reconciliation process if invited by the Burmese government to do so. "[Suu Kyi] herself has been very clear about this– she is extremely busy. She can't do everything in this country," said Swire. "If she is formally invited to get involved, she has indicated to me that she would be very willing to do that."

      With aid workers expecting Rakhine's refugee camps to remain in place for at least another year, it seems many Rohingya are still at the mercy of the Burmese government and the few media and foreign dignitaries able to visit.

      When one teary-eyed Rohingya man pleaded with Zaw Winn, telling him, "We are real Rohingya – please recognise us", the minister looked at his colleague and laughed.

      So iIt is perhaps no surprise that, at the end of the tour of Pauktaw, a few brave Rohingya slipped handwritten letters into the hands of the delegation, including one to the Guardian that read: "We are real citizens of Burma … We hope that you will save and rescue [us]."

      Who are the Rohingya?

      • The Rohingya are an 800,000-strong Muslim minority in Rakhine state, western Burma, which borders Bangladesh. Though many claim to have lived in Burma for generations, they are not recognised as one of the country's 135 ethnic groups.

      •A document on Burmese languages dating back to 1799 refers to "Rooinga" as "natives of Arakan [Rakhine]", but it is widely believed that most Rohingya came over from Bangladesh around 1821, when Britain annexed Burma as a province of British India and brought over migrant Muslim labourers.

      • Large-scale Burmese-government crackdowns on the Rohingya, including Operation Dragon King in 1978, and Operation Clean and Beautiful Nation in 1991, forced hundreds of thousands to flee to Bangladesh. Thousands of others have also left for Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia, many of them by boat.

      • This latest crisis to befall Rakhine state, which has seen 200 killed and 115,000 displaced – most of them Rohingya – tests Burma's recent transition to democracy and its commitment to establishing full human rights for those within its borders.

      Rohingya Refugees Rejected by Singapore
      Posted 23 December 2012 19:19 GMT


      Rohingya migrating through Thailand
      Published: 24/12/2012 at 04:18 PMOnline news:


      Homeless and helpless: The Rohingya Muslims of Rakhine state
      Disowned by Burma, consigned to refugee camps and caught up in ethnic violence, they tell Andrew Buncombe why they will not give up the fight to win back their communities


      What difference does a simple name make? For
      Mohammad Ali, a resident of this town’s last Muslim neighbourhood, a ghetto
      cut-off by barbed wire and military check-points, it matters to his very core.
      “Look here. It asks 'race' and then says 'Rohingya',” says the 68-year-old,
      touching his chest with one hand while with the other pointing to a photocopied
      identity card dating from 1974. “We have been here for a long time. My father, my
      grandfather, they were born here. We were Rohingya at the time.”

      For Shwe Maung, a member of a local political party with links to the Buddhist clergy and which wants to force most Muslims from the state, the matter of a name is equally important. These people are not Rohingya, he angrily insists, but Bengalis. “They are trying to deceive the world,” he adds. “They want the world to think they are natives of Rakhine.”

      Burma’s western Rakhine state has for months been gripped by ethnic violence that has left scores dead and driven up to 100,000 people, the overwhelming majority of them Rohingya Muslims, into squalid refugee camps. The Buddhist community claims they are at risk of being “swallowed up by outsiders” who they say migrated from neighbouring Bangladesh, while the Rohingya, who say they have lived here for centuries, claim they are the victims of nothing less than ethnic cleansing.

      To glimpse the scale of what has happened while the world largely looked away, take the airport road towards the village of Bumay. From there, a rutted track leads to a series of tented camps in which thousands of Muslims are living, having been driven from their communities.

      The largest is Borouda, home to 15,000 people. Many here fled here after their properties in Sittwe were attacked in June. Moniyan Khata, a 38-year-old woman wearing a floral print dress, said their neighbourhood had been surrounded by Buddhists and police. “We had to hide in the lake,” she said, sitting outside her tent.

      And why were they attacked? “We don’t know,” she replied. “They want our land, they want our properties. They want us to leave, to leave the country.”

      At another camp, Te Chaung, were those who fled more recent violence, both Rohingya and Kaman Muslims who had escaped by sea from Kyauktaw, 50 miles away. Human Rights Watch released satellite images that revealed Muslim neighbourhoods there had been destroyed on the night of October 22. Some who escaped spent six days at sea in fishing boats containing 100 people.

      “I came in one boat, my husband in another and our children were in a different one. We did not know where everybody was,” said Chu Kiri, 35, hugging her four children. “At the time I did not know if my husband and children were dead or alive. It was only when we reached here we met up.”

      The trigger for the clashes this summer was the rape of a Buddhist woman by Muslim men. But tension has existed between the communities for decades and there have been regular outbreaks of violence. While some people say they had friends from the other community, there was never intermarriage.

      The Buddhists of Rakhine, Burma’s second poorest state, have always felt neglected by the central authorities. They say their history as a proud independent kingdom, known as Arakan and which spread northwards into what is now India, has been overlooked. With no small irony, given their refusal to to use the word Rohingya, many insist their state should still be referred to as Arakan.

      Such bitterness has been seized on by the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP), a hardline group established to contest elections in 2010 and which holds 18 seats in the state assembly and 15 in the national parliament. While it says it supports democracy, the RNDP also backs a 1982 law passed by the junta which says the Rohingya are not citizens, and says they should leave.

      In their office on Sittwe’s main street, members of the party’s central committee claimed the Rohingya were trying to increase their population. Asked where the Rohingya should go, one member, Shwe Maung, swept his palms backwards, as if he were swishing away a fly. Asked if the party was racist, one member insisted: “No, it’s not. We are not anti-Muslim.”

      While the RNDP says it is secular, it has links to local the Buddhist clergy which has been vocal in its condemnation of the Rohingya. Abbot Ariyawantha of the Sittwe’s Shwe Zadi monastery said he had advised the RNDP leadership on various issues.

      He repeated allegations that the Muslims were deliberately increasing their numbers and that there was a “conspiracy to invade Arakan cities”. The monk denied claims from Rohingya victims that monks had taken part in attacks or that the clergy had been involved in organising attacks.

      Asked about the cause of the violence, he said: “People are angry because of the rape and because they are trying to take our land. It’s our reaction to that behaviour.” Asked what should happen to the Rohingya, he said: “We have to identify the illegal immigrants and keep them in refugee camps. If at some time, a third country wants to accept them we would be happy.”

      But the Rohingya insist they have lived in the region for centuries and say they want to stay. In Sittwe’s Aung Mingalar quarter, Aye Maung, an English teacher, explained how the 7,000 residents were unable to leave and had lived under a cloud of anxiety since the summer. A curfew is in place.

      Walking through its dirty, broken streets, he pointed to where Muslim homes and schools had been set alight or bulldozed during the summer violence. On one side were the homes of a handful of Hindu families and Bollywood music could be heard playing. To ensure they were not mistaken for Muslims, the Hindus were flying Buddhist flags.

      In a dark shack that served Chinese tea, Mr Maung organised a showing of hands for those who wanted independence, as opposed to Burmese citizenship. Without exception, the customers voted for the latter. “We want to be citizens of Myanmar. We don’t want to leave Rakhine,” said Mr Maung.

      The conflict in Rakhine is complex and historic. Several thousand Buddhists are also in refugee camps after their homes were set on fire by Muslims. A number have been killed. At Set Yone Su camp, the conditions appeared better than in the Muslim camps. The refugees generally referred to the Rohingya as Bengalis, or used a derogatory term for blacks. “We have been here for two months. Before we were in a monastery,” said Bakyaw, a rickshaw driver.

      Aid organisations expect to be in for the long haul. Marcus Prior, a spokesman for the World Food Programme, said they were now providing emergency food supplies to 110,000 people. “We have asked for funding to see us through to the middle of next year,” he said.

      Christophe Reltien, Burma head of the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department, said the presence of Muslims in the region was a “long story”. But he said the Muslim population was growing faster than the non-Muslim population. He said the attacks against Muslims were not spontaneous. “We know in some areas it was well organised and not simply people going after a few houses,” he said. “Messages were sent to the [Muslim] community that they should move.”

      The government of Thein Sein has established a committee to investigate the violence and suggest solutions. The committee includes members of different religions, but no Rohingya. Among its members are democracy activists who have spoken out against the Rohingya.

      Indeed, for many observers the most disappointing role has been that played by opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi who – unlike Barack Obama who spoke out in defence of the Rohingya - has refused to denounce the attacks and simply said violence was committed by both sides. At her National League for Democracy’s Rangoon office, her spokesman, Nyan Win, said the Rohingya’s future should be decided by the 1982 citizenship law. When it was suggested the Rohingya had lived in Burma for centuries, he said: “That is not true. They were not here before 1824.”

      In Aung Mingalar, the Rohingya believe Ms Suu Kyi has forgotten them. “She is keeping silent,” said Mr Maung, the teacher. “Perhaps she wants more votes from Buddhists.”

      Myanmar under immense strain to stop violence
      Monday 19 November 2012


      PHNOM PENH: Myanmar is under immense pressure to stop unabated violence against the minority Rohingya Muslims, which is allegedly being orchestrated by security forces in tandem with a political party supporting the radical nationalists.
      Taking the issue under consideration, Southeast Asian leaders attending the annual Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has decided to put pressure on Myanmar to resolve violence between Buddhists and minority Muslims, a senior regional official said yesterday. The unrest has left scores dead and as many as 100,000 people displaced since June.
      Myanmar President Thein Sein has blamed nationalist and religious extremists for unrest in June and October that killed at least 167 people, but has faced criticism for failing to address underlying tensions in Rakhine State, where an estimated 800,000 Rohingya Muslims are not recognized as citizens.
      At least “800,000 people are now under tremendous pressure,” the AEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan told reporters on the sidelines of the summit in the Cambodian capital, Phnom Penh.
      “If that issue is not handled well and effectively, there is a risk of extremism,” he said.
      Surin said he expected ASEAN leaders to raise the issue with Myanmar, which is a member of the bloc, during bilateral talks.
      The ASEAN chief admitted the Rohingya Muslims were the victims of “disturbing” ethnic violence, but stopped short of calling the bloodshed genocide. He did not agree with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which on Saturday had called the Rohingya victims of “genocide”.
      A Reuters investigation painted a troubling picture of organized attacks led by Rakhine nationalists tied to a powerful political party in the state, incited by Buddhist monks and, some witnesses said, abetted by local security forces.
      US President Barack Obama is expected to raise the issue of ethnic tensions today, when he travels to Myanmar and meets Thein Sein. Obama will be the first sitting US president to visit Myanmar, also known as Burma.
      “In addition to the democratic reforms, we’ve been concerned about the continued ethnic conflicts in Burma,” Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser, told reporters accompanying Obama aboard Air Force One.
      “I think the president will be underscoring that national reconciliation is also going to be a part of Burma’s democratic transition,” he said.
      The United Nations said yesterday Thein Sein had sent a letter to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon promising action to tackle the problems.
      In a statement, Ban’s office said Thein Sein had promised that “once emotions subside on all sides”, his government was prepared to “address contentious political dimensions, ranging from resettlement of displaced populations to granting of citizenship”.
      Many Rohingyas are subject to travel and work restrictions.
      Rohingyas have lived for generations in Rakhine State, but Rakhines and other Burmese view them as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh who deserve neither rights nor sympathy.
      A leading international rights group yesterday accused Myanmar security forces of supporting some of the brutal anti-Muslim violence last month that forced 35,000 people from torched homes. The government rejected the allegations, which came one day before President Barack Obama’s visit to the Southeast Asian nation after a year and a half of unprecedented democratic reforms there.
      Human Rights Watch said soldiers in some parts of western Rakhine state also tried to stop Buddhist attacks and protect Muslim civilians, known as Rohingya. But the group said the government needs to do much more to protect the stateless minority, who are denied
      citizenship because they are considered foreigners from Bangladesh.
      The New York-based rights group also released new satellite imagery detailing the extensive destruction of several Muslim areas, including a village attacked by Buddhist mobs armed with spears and bows and arrows where adults were beheaded and women and children killed.
      “The satellite images and eyewitness accounts reveal that local mobs, at times with official support, sought to finish the job of removing Rohingya from these areas,” said Brad Adams, the watchdog’s Asia director.
      He urged US President Barack Obama to press Myanmar’s reformist leader Thein Sein on the issue when he makes a historic visit to Yangon on Monday following sweeping political changes in the former pariah state.

      Suu Kyi calls Rohingya massacre an ‘international tragedy’
      Friday 16 November 2012


      Burma: escalating violence signals religious war
      As the country prepares for Barack Obama's arrival, Rohingya and Arakanese communities claim atrocities on both sides
      Francis Wade in Sittwe, Burma
      guardian.co.uk, Friday 9 November 2012 17.31 GMT


      Rohingya seeking new life in Malaysia
      Escaping violence in Myanmar, many migrants fear for those they left behind.
      Last Modified: 08 Nov 2012 09:04


      Muslims fleeing sectarian violence in Burma drown as crisis deepens
      Many Rohingya people are attempting dangerous voyages to Bangladesh and Thailand, but most are sent back on arrival
      Gethin Chamberlain
      The Observer, Sunday 4 November 2012


      First one body appeared, floating in the waters of the Bay of Bengal, then another, and another, until those on board the little fishing boat that had gone to their rescue began to lose count.

      Those bobbing lifeless among the waves had set out the night before, so desperate to escape the growing sectarian violence in Burma that they were prepared to risk boarding the dangerously overcrowded boat.

      At least 130 had clambered aboard, but the boat foundered – whether it capsized because of the weight of bodies or because it struck rocks remains unclear.

      The sinking last week was the worst reported incident resulting from the outbreak of violence between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in western Burma. The death toll is continuing to rise amid reports of a deepening humanitarian crisis.

      "The situation is dire. The UN is doing its best, but it is trying to find more funding to help them," said Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project, an NGO working with the Rohingya.

      With at least 32,000 people displaced by the latest violence – and at least 107,000 since trouble broke out in June – thousands have sought safety in refugee camps around the Burmese town of Sittwe. Those camps are at crisis point, according to Refugees International, which estimates that nearly a quarter of children were malnourished.

      "Conditions in these camps are as bad, if not worse, than ones in eastern Congo or Sudan," said Melanie Teff, a researcher with the charity who visited Sittwe in September. "Child malnutrition rates are startlingly high. There's an urgent need for clean water and food. If further aid does not come through, there will be some unnecessary deaths."

      In Baw Du Pha relief camp, where several thousand Rohingya refugees from Sittwe are surviving on rations and are severely short of medical care, Laila, 20, a mother of four, said: "I cannot give my baby rice when she needs it. We are suffering. When my daughter gets sick we have no money for medicine."

      Compounding the need for essentials such as rice, water and oil, aid workers said refugees were facing a mounting psychological toll, with children bearing the brunt. "They lost their houses in the fires. Children cannot be left alone like before. So they're depressed," said Moe Thadar, a local Red Cross worker.

      The death toll and fear of further violence have prompted many of the Rohingya to look for sanctuary in neighbouring Muslim countries. Many have concluded that the only realistic escape route is by sea. Thousands are reported to have been waiting for the end of the rainy season to put to sea. Those that have tried to get away have found that those countries are unwilling to accept them. Lewa said at least two boats had been turned back by Bangladesh last week and had returned to Sittwe.

      "On Wednesday, we heard that about 7,000 people had arrived in Sittwe from Kyaukpyu [on the coast to the south] and Pauktaw [inland and to the east]. There were still about 900 of them sitting on the beach in Sittwe, while others had moved to camps or villages."

      The UN has urged the Burmese government to tackle the causes of the conflict, prompting authorities to order people to turn in their weapons to police. It also urged Burma's neighbours to not to close their borders, but the appeal brought no immediate change of heart.

      Some of those who have fled, such as the victims of last week's sinking, headed for Malaysia, where people-smugglers will take them for a fee. Others are looking closer to home – to Bangladesh and Thailand – but neither country wants them. Bangladesh is already home to around 300,000 Rohingya and is concerned about rising numbers. It has said that it will turn away boats, although people near Cox's Bazar, close to where last week's accident happened, said that some had made land and gone into hiding. Thailand does not want them and has been accused of forcing refugee boats back out to sea when they have tried to land. The latest assessment from the Burmese government – which regards the Rohingya as illegal immigrants – said 89 people had been killed in clashes between 21 and 30 October, with another 136 injured and 32,231 made homeless. At least 5,000 houses had been burned down. Activists say the true figures are likely to be higher.

      "The villages have been burned down and some people have fled. A few have remained in the area, but others have tried to flee to the camps in Sittwe," said Lewa. "In some villages quite a lot of people have been killed, but we are still trying to find out how they died. Some died in the fires and some were attacked by Rakhine [Buddhists]. We also heard that the army shot at some of the Rakhine people. We heard about 170 people killed in one village alone."

      Teff said the outlook for peace was grim. "There is a total lack of hope for the Rohingya. They have been rejected by many countries," she said. "The only way out is for the international community to act on the current situation."

      Myanmar's Muslim refugees strain villages
      Rohingya Muslims fleeing ethnic violence in the west find welcoming but wary neighbours and meagre supplies.
      Last Modified: 02 Nov 2012 18:36


      The ongoing ethnic violence in Myanmar's western Rakhine state is starting to take a toll on the villages that have taken in displaced Muslims.

      In one town recently visited by Al Jazeera, the Rohingya who had fled their own burning village were welcomed in a neighbouring town populated mostly by fellow Kaman and Rohingya. Even there, however, some locals have been pushed into accommodating 20 people to a house.

      The Rohingyas' refuge is tenuous, with Buddhist men in one town over watching their new neighbours warily. The central government has dispatched some police and army troops to keep the peace, but amid spreading violence between the two sides, another town may be receiving refugees soon.

      Al Jazeera's Wayne Hay reports from western Myanmar.