The Burma Human Rights Network has become aware of villages complaining of dire food shortages in the north of Burma's Rakhine State, following a widespread military campaign last year by the Burmese Army against the civilian population that resulted in over 600, 000 refugees fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh. Those who remained have had limited access to aid as restrictions on NGOs and charities remained in many areas following the fighting. While the Red Cross has been given access to some of these areas others remain in dire need of food and medical aid.
The intentional blocking of aid for civilians is part of what is known as the 'Four Cuts Strategy' which the Burmese armed forces are known for using in conflict. The strategy involves cutting off food, aid, information and recruitment. Typically this is carried out against the civilian population, starving them, torturing them, and devastating them to weaken public support for insurgency and denying them recruits and information. The strategy has existed since the 1970's and has been used against several minority ethnic groups throughout the country, each time with gross human rights violations.
Across northern Rakhine State, several Rohingya villages and makeshift settlements remain. Rohingya living in northern Rakhine State have long faced restrictions on movement and ability to work or access food, but since the assault by the Burmese Security forces last Summer this has only worsened. Aid has been severely limited, travel is not permitted even to areas where Rohingya once were allowed to work, security forces continue to steal livestock from Rohingya villagers, arbitrary arrests continue and homes are still being destroyed by arson or simply being torn down. The Rohingya remaining have considerably limited ability to communicate outside their immediate area and are even less capable of communicating with NGOs and International media. They are, however, in urgent need of assistance and at great risk of death, disease and prolonged and unnecessary suffering.
Without the intervention and assistance of NGOs and the international community, their plight will only worsen.
Below is a table of areas complaining of aid shortages who have little or no access to outside support. The table is not a complete list, as many of the areas in need face restrictions and limitations which would prevent them from communicating. Information about them continues to be sought out:
Gutar Pyin, Southern Buthidaung Township
59 Homes, 1500 people
Several families are living in small homes together. Food shortage despite some rations provided by Red Cross.
Authorities have prohibited the rebuilding of homes. Villagers are unable to perform work they used to do to support themselves due to threats and increased restrictions following the military campaign in the area. This township was also alleged to have a mass grave, which the Government threatened to sue the Associated Press for reporting.
|Thabeik Taung Village Tract||The tract is composed of three villages||VIllagers are unable to work, and only a few can continue any agricultural, wood cutting, or other jobs. Villagers say|
|Southern Buthidaung||Taung Ywa there are 1300 Taung Che village there are 700 Myat Ywa there are 1200||Restrictions have banned them from areas they used to be allowed in and were dependent on to sustain themselves.
Villagers say they are dependent on a few rice paddies owned in the area to feed most of the population. Muslims seeking food from markets are forced to bribe guards in order get permission for someone to buy food for the villages.
|Hpon Nyo Leik VIllage Tract, Southern Buthidaung||Total population of 8650 including 1200 Muslims.||Village is dependent on agriculture, but Muslims are banned from areas they need to go to work.|
|Nga Yant Chaung village tract||9 households in Pauk Taw Pyin village. Kyay Hnot Thee village 500 Rohingya remain.||Villagers say many fled their homes due to fears of ongoing security issues (Vigilantes or fear of soldiers committing arson). Complaints of fleeing due to food shortages as well.|
|Myo Ma Kyan Than and Boe Mu Phara, Maungdaw Township||65 Households||Villagers stated they were without food, unsupported by any outside agency and unable to seek work or food due to restrictions preventing them from leaving their village. Their situation was described as especially dire.|
|Inn Caung, Nga Yan Chaung, Thin Ga Na, Kin Tha Ma, Dar Bin Sara and Mee Kyaung Zay Village Tracts||1340 households mentioned||In these six village tracts there 283 people who are disabled are 72 elderly or forlorn individuals, 57 people described as already facing dire illness or circumstances, 78 malnutrition cases related to pregnant women or babies, 123 cases children under 5 years old facing acute malnutrition, 23 cases of mental health problems and a total of 1340 households in dire need of food. The villages tracts listed said they did not have support from any NGOs and that they urgently needed help.|
Buthidaung Wards 1,2,5,7
|-||Ground sources said that 200 families in these wards were facing severe shortages of food. These areas said that restrictions on movement made their situation especially difficult as it prevented them from seeking work to pay for food for their families.|
At the same time villagers in Buthidaung Township have complained of police stealing livestock and extorting money from villagers arbitrarily or under a pretext of counterinsurgency. The village tracts of Mee Kyaung Zay, Dar Bin Sara and Khin Tha Ma have recently complained of soldiers from Battalion 564 stealing 48 hens from the village. In another incident the same battalion was reported bringing chickens as aid for the same villagers, but forcing a high price for them, seemingly reselling them the hens that they stole. A villager in Khaik Mu Ra Village complained of police extorting 100, 000 Kyat from him without reason., two other villagers from Hpaw Tay Ahr Li Village complained of police extorting 300, 000 Kyat from them while they were on a boat, and a Moulvi in Bo Gyi Chaung was arrested three times and had 375, 000 Kyat extorted in the process. The Moulvi was arrested on accusations of connections to the Rohingya rebel group, ARSA, seemingly as a pretext for the extortion.
These events come at a time when the Chief Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Fatou Bensouda, introduced arguments for the court to rule on its jurisdiction regarding the forced deportation of ethnic Rohingya from Burma to Bangladesh. While the argument is unprecedented it is especially thorough and well argued and there seems to be a strong possibility that the ICC may confirm their jurisdiction on these matters. As such, pressure is being placed on Burma which it has not previously had to deal with which will likely create an environment where they are more cooperative with the requests of the international community.
3 At the same time, conditions on the ground are causing a new exodus by boats of Rohingya throughout the state, not just in the areas effected by last Summer's military assaults. In particular, threats to safety, shortages of food and medicine and restrictions on movement are causing increasing numbers to flee by sea. The final destinations of those who are being de facto deported are Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. The crimes Burma is committing inside its own borders are continuing to negatively impact its neighbors and they have shown little concern for it.
With this all in mind, it is vital that nations with the power to help use every means they can to address the situation on the ground so that food and aid can reach those in need and they can move freely in order to support themselves and their families, instead of living in open air prisons. ASEAN nations, having a closer relationship with Burma, will have greater chances of helping those on the ground and should use this window of opportunity to do so. As these efforts commence it is important that the international community continues to push for accountability and consequences for crimes that occurred in Rakhine State, and against minorities throughout Burma, while working on ways to resolve conflict and promote peace and justice.
Background on the Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
BHRN is based in London and operates across Burma/Myanmar working for human rights, minority rights and religious freedom in the country. BHRN has played a crucial role in advocating for human rights and religious freedom with politicians and world leaders.
Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN)
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