The Rohingya of Burma are a desperate people. Considered “illegal immigrants” without basic citizenship rights by Rangoon, they subsist in impoverished townships and refugee camps where they live in constant fear of the threat of external violence.
In the last 12 months, two massive, organised attacks on Rohingya residential areas in Rakhine state, West Burma, occurred- resulting in whole villages and neighbourhoods being razed to the ground. 100,000 are currently homeless as a result; many have tried to flee to neighbouring nations only to drown at sea, end up starving in refugee camps near the Burmese border, or dead. Recent reports of the rape and torture of Rohingya women in Rakhine state at the hands of local border guards demonstrate the sort of brutal treatment many who stay have to endure.
Proportionate to the extremity of their suffering, the plight of the Rohingya is not widely known. The world’s media have covered some of the worst outbreaks of violence and a collection of tragic incidents since, but little more.This urgently has to change in order for awareness to be raised about the prospects that these people face- and for their survival to be secured.
At present, reliable reports from within and outside Burma indicate that preparations are being made for a third round of violence due to occur this month or early April, which could be the most intense and brutal yet. With the monsoon on the horizon, an event likely to precipitate a humanitarian disaster for those in refugee camps, there is a real risk that thousands of people could die.
More needs to be done to bring this urgent situation to the attention of the world’s politicians and press. The Rohingya Journalism Fund has been set up for this purpose- it is intended to fund at least one visit to the country by journalists who have agreed to enter into the country and document the plight of this forgotten people.
The team will collect evidence of the grave and ongoing human rights abuses that are taking place in Burma, with a view to sharing our findings with the media, human rights organisations and, hopefully, the International Criminal Court.
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