Under siege in their villages, Rohingya still in Burma say they’re trapped

Source: The Washington Post

By Max Bearak

Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s de facto leader, recently claimed that an unprecedented exodus of half a million Rohingya Muslims from her country in just five weeks “has quieted down” and that people are “carrying on as normal.”

The Burmese government has locked down troubled Rakhine state, blocking independent access to media and aid organizations. But there is another, albeit less precise, way to assess the ground reality for Rohingya in Burma: calling them on their cellphones.

Testimony gathered last week from more than a dozen such conversations suggests that Burma’s leaders are either misinformed about events in Rakhine or intentionally misrepresenting them.

Since Rohingya militants attacked Burmese police posts on Aug. 25, the Burmese military has swept through northern Rakhine in “cleansing operations” it says are aimed at eliminating terrorists. The United Nations has called it a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” Rohingya have fled that scorched-earth campaign at a rate not seen since the Rwandan genocide in 1994, although the flow has slowed over the past two weeks. Now more Rohingya live in severely overburdened camps in Bangladesh than they do in Burma.

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