Rohingya Repressed for UN Visit - Aid being blocked and looted at Arakan ports (31.07.12)

The suffering in Arakan continues for the Muslim Rohingya, despite reports of UN rapporteur Tomas Ojea Quintana visiting Arakan today. What should spark hope in the darkness of the last few weeks, opens another sinister chapter to what will now inevitably be a silent killing field in the state.

Our sources have updated us with information that Northern Arakan has been made into a concentration camp where Rohingya are kept and cut off from all the other regions. Upon hearing of the UN visit, preparations are being made to ensure that the Rohingya are seen to be free, but in fact the control over them is just increasing, with further reports of police and state authority attacks against them. In areas where there are a great number of military personnel, the Rohingyas are given a little more freedom to move freely and are able to purchase some food goods, however at an extortionate price which of course is unaffordable.

Further, the Rohingya of south Buthidaung are still facing an acute food shortage. There are a few villages in the remote areas of the township with a sizeable Rohingya community living surrounded by a majority Rakhine population and are thus continuing to be controlled by them. Some Rohingya there have managed to make telephone calls to other townships seeking help to save them from imminent starvation and death due to the food blockages by the Rakhines and Monks alike.

Reports have been made of a muslim locality in Maungdaw, where the Rohingya were driven out by the local Rakhine thugs. Fifteen large houses with warehouses of food stock for sale belonging to well off Rohingya families were taken over by Rakhines and the whole area under their rule. The Rohingya owners were not given any time to collect personal items before being kicked out. The homes and warehouses were then looted, with hundreds of millions of Kyats worth of goods taken. Even now, there is no opportunity for these Rohingya families to return to the now empty shells, which were once their homes.

The Rohingya are further suppressed at this time into a state of silence, fearing that any anti state reports will lead them to an even more vulnerable situation. Win Myaing, a spokesperson for the Arakan State government when being asked about the report still refers to the recent events as just 'civil rioting' and 'ethnic clashes', showing a clear refusal to have any open dialogue to address the grave human rights abuses against the Rohingya.

On the 26th July a ship carrying food arrived in Akyab, but was looted and the local Rohingya were not able to reach any of the supplies. The items included 18,000 bags of rice (900 metric tonnes), 1,000 bags of lentils (50 metric tonnes) and 1,100 bales of clothing. As the Rohingya are restricted in the concentration camps far from the town entrance, any aid will always be intercepted before reaching them. The donors were mostly from Muslims from Yangon and other cities organised by the Myanmar islamic Council, Myanmar Ulema Headquarters, Myanmar Muslim Youth Organisation, Jamitul Ulema Organisation and Moon Sighting Committee, with the value of the goods being estimated at $500,000.

Restless Beings are currently working on leading a coalition of charities with the UN to ensure that a route for aid to be safely delivered to the most vulnerable does in fact reach the most vulnerable without being blocked. In situations of increased systematic attacks and violent restrictions on the Rohingya, aid and medical supplies are required immediately for survival.

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