NAYAPARA REFUGEE CAMP: Abdul Goni says the Myanmar government was starving his family one stage at a time.
First, soldiers stopped the Rohingya Muslim from walking three hours to the forest for the firewood he sold to feed his family. Then Buddhist neighbors and seven soldiers took his only cow, which he rented out to fertilize rice fields. Next, he says, they killed his uncle and strung him up on a wire for trying to stop the theft of his buffalos.
By the time Goni saw bodies floating down the local river, of fellow Rohingya killed for illegal fishing, he knew his family would die if they didn’t leave. On bad days, they carved the flesh out of banana plant stalks for food. On the worst days, his children ate nothing.
“I felt so sorry that I couldn’t give them enough food,” the 25-year-old says, tears running down his face, in a refugee camp in Bangladesh, just across the border from Myanmar. “Everything just got worse and worse. … Day by day, the pressure was increasing all around us. They used to tell us, ‘This isn’t your land. … We’ll starve you out.’”
First, massacres, rapes and the wholesale destruction of villages by the Myanmar military in western Rakhine state forced nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh, in reprisal for Rohingya militant attacks on Aug. 25. Now, the food supply appears to be another weapon that’s being used against the dwindling numbers of Rohingya in Myanmar.
The accounts of hunger could not be independently confirmed, as Myanmar’s government does not allow reporters into the northern part of Rakhine state, where most of the Rohingya lived. However, more than a dozen interviews by The Associated Press with the most recent refugees show growing desperation, as the noose tightens around their communities in what U.N. officials have said may be a genocide. The U.N. and human rights groups such as Amnesty International have also warned of increasing hunger among the Rohingya in areas where conflict and displacement have been most rampant.
Repeated calls to Myanmar’s military weren’t answered, but the Myanmar government denies ethnic cleansing and says it is battling terrorists. Social Welfare Minister Win Myat Aye says the government has been distributing food aid to as many people as possible.
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