SITTWE, Myanmar – Thousands of Rohingya Muslims in violence-racked northwest Myanmar are pleading with authorities for safe passage from two remote villages that are cut off by hostile Buddhists and running short of food.
“We’re terrified,” Maung Maung, a Rohingya official at Ah Nauk Pyin village, told Reuters by telephone. “We’ll starve soon and they’re threatening to burn down our houses.”
Another Rohingya contacted by Reuters, who asked not to be named, said ethnic Rakhine Buddhists came to the same village and shouted, “Leave, or we will kill you all.”
Fragile relations between Ah Nauk Pyin and its Rakhine neighbors were shattered on Aug. 25, when deadly attacks by Rohingya militants in Rakhine State prompted a ferocious response from Myanmar’s security forces.
At least 430,000 Rohingya have since fled into neighboring Bangladesh to evade what the United Nations has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
About a million Rohingya lived in Rakhine State until the recent violence. Most face draconian travel restrictions and are denied citizenship in a country where many Buddhists regard them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
Tin Maung Swe, secretary of the Rakhine State government, told Reuters he was working closely with the Rathedaung authorities, and had received no information about the Rohingya villagers’ plea for safe passage.
“There is nothing to be concerned about,” he said when asked about local tensions. “Southern Rathedaung is completely safe.”
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