On the outskirts of Sittwe, the state capital of Rakhine, lives about 30 000 displaced Rohingya in ten camps that was quickly built after the violence in 2012.
Mohammad Eyus (46) got shot in the foot by an army officer back in 2000 when refused to give the officer his fishing boats. In 2012 he lost his home, his new boat, his seven cows and 4 buffalos as the Rakhines attacked his neighbourhood in Santoli Village.
Arjedars wedding day is coming to its end. While Ibrahim, her husband is still partying she inside the house thinking about this day, which was one of the worst days of her sixteen year old life.
The Denied People
Sittwe, Myanmar, 11, June 2012. Rakhine people had surrounded Nazi village and set fire to their houses. In this mess, seven-year-old Anwar was mistakenly left alone in the family house. Living across the street, his neighbour noticed that a Rakhine ran into his house. Then there was a scream. The terrified neighbour decided to enter the boy’s house and found Anwar on the floor, left with a deep cut on his stomach.
On the 3rd of June 2012 deadly intercommunal violence broke out in the western state Rakhine, after a Buddhist woman was found raped and murdered, allegedly by three Muslim men. The news about this murder started a chain of violent events between Buddhist Rakhine and Muslim Rohingya for months to follow, forcing 140 000 Rohingya to leave their home.
“Burma will take responsibility for its ethnic nationalities but it is not at all possible to recognize the illegal border-crossing Rohingya who are not an ethnic [group] in Burma,” stated Myanmars president Thein Sein in a meeting with UNCHR in the aftermath of the violence. The president’s solution for the displaced Rohingya was to send them to a third country or put them in temporary camps.
At Sittwe beach, resort tourist are swimming as the heat intensifies in March. A couple of miles further down the coast, reality is quite different. Raw sewage moves through open waterways between bamboo houses. Ten camps are set up for the Rohingya to live in, over an area of three square miles. Anwar and 30 000 registered survivors is dependent on aid to get drinking water and food. In the unregistered camps that have appeared in between other camps, people do not get any help.
– The food we eat and the things we own, we get from our friends, says Ramzan Ali who has got half of a melon for dinner for his family. The state government denies him aid as Ramzan was defending his village when it was attacked. His neighbours and him are forced to live in tents made out of empty food bags from aid groups. The monsoon is on its way and their worries are growing for how it is to live directly on the ground in a perforated tent.
At a time when Myanmar is emerging from decades of authoritarianism and isolation, a new rise of Burman-Buddhist nationalism is led by a group of highly influenced monks that preaches intolerance and urges a boycott of Muslim businesses. This hate is not new. For decades the Rohingya have been a persecuted minority, one of the worlds most, according to the UN. Left out from the country’s citizenship act, the Rohingya Muslims are denied most rights as freedom of movement, a passport and face severe restriction on marriage and a two-child-policy.
– Where to go, where to sleep?
Ramzan cannot answer. The only way out costs 100 dollars by sea with boat smugglers. As many Rohingya see no end to the conflict, 30 000 of them left their country last year. There is a common knowledge within the camps that boat refugees often becomes victims of human trafficking, or worse, drown on their attempt to flee. Still, the rate for the escaped this year has doubled. They are hoping for a better life in another country, but few are welcoming them.
by Therese Alice Sanne