THE PAVILIONS PHUKET BRITISH INTERNATIONAL SCHOOL, PHUKET Kata Rocks
Login | Create Account Poll Currency Weather Facebook Youtube Search

Leaving a ghostland behind

MYANMAR: Torched villages and unharvested paddy fields stretch to the horizon in Myanmar’s violence-gutted Rakhine state, where a dwindling number of Muslim Rohingya remain trapped in limbo after an army crackdown coursed through the region.

crimedeathimmigrationmilitarymurderMyanmarreligionsexviolenceland
By AFP

Sunday 26 November 2017, 11:44AM


A girl stands on the sandy banks of the natural boundary between Myanmar and Bangladesh near a makeshift camp in Rakhine state in Myanmar. Photo: AFP

A girl stands on the sandy banks of the natural boundary between Myanmar and Bangladesh near a makeshift camp in Rakhine state in Myanmar. Photo: AFP

A rare military-organised trip for foreign media by helicopter to Maungdaw district – the epicentre of a crisis that exploded in late August – showed a landscape devoid of people, with the emerald paddy fields scarred by the blackened patches of destroyed Rohingya villages.

More than 600,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled the area over the past two and a half months, running from a scorched-earth military campaign against militants that the UN has described as a “textbook example” of ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar, a mainly Buddhist country, has denied committing atrocities but has heavily restricted access to the conflict zone with the exception of brief government-organised visits.

Under the watchful eye of an army brigadier and border police, journalists were recently able to speak to some of the several hundred Rohingya camped at the beach near Ale Than Kyaw village, hoping to flee across treacherous waters to neighbouring Bangladesh.

While the worst violence appears to have subsided, those left behind say they are trapped – unable to afford the $50 (B1,641) boat fee, but without the means to eke out a living in the region.

“We used to work in farming and fishing, but now the owners don’t want labour,” said 25-year-old Osoma, explaining that most Rohingya businesses and landowners have joined the exodus.

The young mother of three, carrying a month-old baby in her arms, said her family was not certain if life in Bangladesh’s sprawling refugee camps would be better.

“But we want to stay with the others who are there already,” she said.

Rakhine’s northernmost Maungdaw district was once home to around three quarters of Myanmar’s 1.1 million-strong Rohingya population, according to government figures.

Aid workers estimate that only some 150,000 remain there, with other communities living further south.

With no one left to work Maungdaw’s fields, huge swathes of verdant farmland are at risk of rotting – a cruel irony given the severe food shortages in aid-dependent Rakhine and the squalid refugee camps across the border.

Myanmar says it has trucked in workers from other parts of the state to harvest 70,000 acres of abandoned rice paddies.

But some stretches of untouched fields have already started to turn brown in the mountain-studded region.

The media trip to Rakhine comes amid mounting global pressure on Myanmar over its handling of the crisis, with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson visiting the capital last week.

The top American diplomat was expected to take a firm tone with the country’s powerful military leaders, whom he has deemed “responsible” for the crisis.

Meanwhile, on the shores of Rakhine, some desperate Rohingya are taking matters into their own hands.

Ro Shi Armad, 18, has teamed up with several other families to build a flimsy-looking raft using plastic containers and bamboo.

Scores of refugees have drowned in recent months while attempting the perilous journey to Bangladesh.

“We’re not worried if we die on the way over,” the teenager said.

“What else can we do now?”

 

 

Comment on this story

* Please login to comment. If you do not have an account please register below by simply entering a username, password and email address. You can still leave your comment below at the same time.

Comments Here:
Comments Left:
# Characters
Username:
Password:
E-mail:
Security:

Be the first to comment.

Have a news tip-off? Click here

 

Phuket community
Board vetoes ban on hazardous chemicals

Astonishing inability of reading and comprehending.No,it's not defending some careless handling ...(Read More)


Taxi blames oil spill for wipeout

This is funny, how can RTP charge a driver for this happening due to a oils spill on the road ( duri...(Read More)


Patong Police Chief: Leave your valuables at home

Who in their right mind (anywhere in the world) will leave a bag with that amount of cash unattended...(Read More)


Police probe launched after Chinese tourist suffers DCS in ‘try dive’

The outfit running the tour should have been fully aware of the existence of "SSS Hyperbaric Ch...(Read More)


Phuket Opinion: Fear and loathing in paradise

Should be no problem for people who want to retire in Thailand, they just have to prove (not claim) ...(Read More)


Phuket Opinion: Fear and loathing in paradise

And if a person, for a sanitary emergency or for an accident needs to use part of the 400,000 baht, ...(Read More)


Koh Kaew OrBorTor tackles roadside dumping

Municipal refuse collection and recycling locations should be provided by every municipality. Somewh...(Read More)


Dozens of street racers, promoter arrested in Bangkok

What is the legal setting in Thailand regarding drugs/urine tests out there? When is it voluntarily ...(Read More)


Chalong Underpass makes breakthrough

That structure in Chalong circle centre is to much. Very ugly and bombastic/pompous. Wait for the da...(Read More)


Dozens of street racers, promoter arrested in Bangkok

Are there no racing circuit areas in Thailand for this hobby? Organise races, have a police unit the...(Read More)