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    Burma’s displaced Rohingya suffer as aid blocked

    BY
    Jonah Fisher
    December
    13, 2012




    Six
    months of sectarian violence has driven more than 100,000 people from
    their homes in western Burma. 

    Rakhine
    Buddhist and Rohingya Muslim communities that have lived separately
    for generations are now forcibly segregated. 


    Barriers
    have been erected across roads in the state capital and thousands of
    Rakhine have had their homes destroyed. 

    But
    its the Rohingya who endure the worst conditions. Rejected as
    citizens by both Bangladesh and Burma, they continue to be victimised
    in the camps where they sought shelter.

    On
    Myebon peninsula, south of the Rakhine state capital Sittwe, the
    double standards are clear. 

    Once
    the site of a daring amphibious raid by Allied troops in the Second
    World War, the peninsula is now home to two very different refugee
    camps. 

    Just
    a mile or so apart, they are populated entirely on ethnic lines – one
    for displaced Buddhists and the other for the Rohingyas. 

    Near
    the centre of town is the smaller of the camps. 

    On
    lush grass thirty five tents bearing the logo of the Kingdom of Saudi
    Arabia stand in ordered rows. This is Kan Thar Htwat Wa, home to 400
    Buddhists who have been here since clashes in late October. 

    Phu
    Ma Gyi ‘s home was burnt down and, with her two daughters, she now
    shares a tent with three other families. 

    “The
    government is looking after us here,” she says. “We have
    food, medicine and what we need.” 

    Not
    far away the Burmese and UN officials who I am travelling with are
    being shown a table full of medical supplies and bags of rice. It is
    clear there are no shortages here. 

    Blocked
    deliveries
     

    A
    short drive in the back of a truck takes us to the Rohingya camp. On
    the way we pass by what was the Muslim neighbourhood. 

    Now
    it is completely flattened, with just the outlines of houses still
    visible on the ground.

    Six
    weeks ago, one of those outlines was the primary school where Khin La
    May was headmistress. 

    “The
    Rakhine community came with knives and threw stones and sticks,”
    she said. 

    So
    she fled, along with 4,000 other Rohingya to a small mound just
    outside town. That mound became what is now Taung Paw Camp. 

    It
    is a squalid muddy mess with raw sewage running through its open
    drains. The tents are ramshackle and the people inside hungry and
    desperate. 

    Aid
    workers told me this is one of the worst camps in Asia, if not the
    world. 

    Deliveries
    to both camps on Myebon have to be made by boat, and attempts to get
    proper sanitation and supplies into Taung Paw have so far been
    blocked. 

    Rakhine
    Buddhists control the jetty and are refusing to allow aid agencies
    regular access to the Rohingya camp, thwarting attempts to improve
    conditions.

    It
    is a scene repeated in other locations in Rakhine. One major aid
    agency told me obstruction by the Buddhist community was preventing
    them from doing 90% of their work. 

    Given
    the local objections only the Burmese military could force the aid
    through. But they have so far refused to do so. 

    Instead
    they stand guard at Taung Paw, stopping the Rohingya leaving to tend
    their crops (the Rakhine have in their absence taken the fields
    over). 

    Burma’s
    Border Affairs Minister Thein Htay visited both the Myebon camps with
    us and said that military were keeping the Rohingya inside for their
    own security. 

    The
    stark difference in conditions was due to the camps being different
    sizes, he said.

    “There
    is some disturbance by the local people,” he said. “In your
    country does the military always intervene? The Burmese military is
    not the ruling man. There is the government.” 

    Better
    relations
     

    In
    Rakhine’s urban centres the situation is better. Relations between
    the authorities and international aid agencies have improved and many
    of those displaced in June are being moved into better conditions.

    As
    she travelled to both Buddhist and Rohingya camps, the United
    Nations’ top humanitarian official Valerie Amos repeatedly urged
    reconciliation. 

    For
    now with tensions high that appears a distant goal. 

    More
    money is needed to fund the Rakhine aid operation, Ms Amos said, but
    it is now up to the Burmese authorities to take a strong stand. 

    “The
    donors have a responsibility because we need more money to really be
    effective but the government also has a responsibility,” she
    said. 

    “They
    have to take the lead. They have to show the leadership they have to
    work to bring the communities together. And that work has to start
    now.”
    Source  BBC News: