16 November, 2017, London, UK – As the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visits Burma he arrives at a time where his influence and the pressure of the international community is vital to address the situation in Burma’s western Rakhine State. To date over 600,000 Rohingya have fled from the country following a ruthless campaign by the Burmese Military that included murder, torture, forced starvation and rape. At the time of this writing reports of arbitrary arrests persist and video continues to emerge of Rohingya villages being burnt to the ground by vigilante mobs and security forces, despite the outcry of the international community. Those Rohingya remaining in Burma have faced severe shortages of food and aid as restrictions have blocked nearly all INGOs from accessing them and the access recently given to the Red Cross appears to still be extremely limited. The situation as it currently stands cannot be allowed to continue and it is apparent now that the assistance of Secretary of State Tillerson and the international community is the only avenue to alter its course for the better.
Recent moves by the international community have successfully created an atmosphere of pressure on the Burmese Government to address the issues in Rakhine State, but further pressure remains necessary to create meaningful actions and restore equity and calm. The Burmese Military recently issued a report detailing an investigation into its own actions and has predictably made the argument that no wrongdoing was committed. This report, while hard to take seriously, is also meant to create the illusion that something is being done and to waste the time of the international community while avoiding concrete actions.
17 October 2017, London, UK – The Burma Human Rights Network has observed large scale food shortages throughout Rakhine State caused by restrictions on aid distribution for nearly all NGOs operating in the state besides the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) who is working in coordination with Myanmar’s Relief and Resettlement Department (RRD). As a result several areas, which are dependent on aid, have gone long periods without any arriving. In the north of Rakhine State half the Rohingya population had already fled a military campaign the UN described as, “seeming like a textbook case of ethnic cleansing.” Those remaining in the north continue to flee at an alarming rate, but witness statements indicate they are doing so due to threat of starvation rather than a direct threat from the military. Similarly, food shortages have grown increasingly throughout the Rohingya areas in the rest of the state as new restrictions starting in September were imposed, preventing nearly all NGOs from delivering aid even outside of conflict areas. As a result there is legitimate cause for concern that a new exodus could also emerge from central Rakhine, not unlike the boat exoduses seen in the area in 2014.
In Northern Rakhine Villagers have informed BHRN of large scale fleeing occurring daily. A villager in Thayet Kin Manu, in Buthidaung, stated that of the 165 households in his village, 30 had already fled with another 60 making preparations to do the same in the coming day. The reason, he said was “due to total blockade or restrictions and [because of] starvation people are fleeing continuously.” Another villager also in rural Buthidaung told BHRN, “Lots of people have fled from our village because of starvation and most are daily workers. We are poor because the government confiscated our paddy [field]