The mass exodus of Rohingya out of Rakhine State, Burma/Myanmar has been staggering. Recent months have seen unrelenting violence and bloodshed, usually aimed at civilians. Burmese news outlets have reported that ninety percent of the Rohingya population in Rakhine State have fled their homes and currently reside in Bangladesh, just next door. According to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Bangladeshi refugee camps now hold approximately 688,000 Rohingya refugees.
Not every single Rohingya village has been attacked — many don’t wait that long. The threat of what has happened in many villages is too great a risk to stand and wait around for. Rape has been a commonly used weapon against many there. The Associated Press interviewed many women on the Bangladeshi border:
The women spoke of seeing their children slaughtered in front of them, their husbands beaten and shot. They spoke of burying their loved ones in the darkness and leaving the bodies of their babies behind. They spoke of the searing pain of rapes that felt as if they would never end, and of dayslong journeys on foot to Bangladesh while still bleeding and hobbled.”
There have also been reports of throwing infants across trees, burning families in their homes and beating people of all ages to death. A report of the military coming through, slaughtering people and then burning their faces beyond recognition with acid came out earlier this year. Another report of a mass grave with ten Rohingya bodies inside got two Reuters journalists jailed for their efforts. Despite the stories to the contrary, these reports continue find their way to the surface.
This type of violence upon their neighbors is not looked at casually for most Rohingya. Many have fled the the Burmese military before they reach their villages; some have fled as soon as any sort of Burmese authority arrived within their village. Half of one village simply up and left when a Burmese police regimental base was built in their town — many agree that the risk is too great when dealing with the authorities.
And the risk of travel through an unforgiving jungle and a river where people are constantly drowning is not lost on them. But they try anyway.
Doctors Without Borders published a report late last year, reporting the violent deaths of 11,393 Rohingya people in the first 31 days of fighting. Over 1,200 of them were children under the age of five, most of which shot, burned at home or in the miscellaneous section of violent deaths. 6.9% of all children under the age of five that died in that month, died because they were beaten to death. Over 70% of all Rohingya deaths in that month were violent ones.
The United Nations has called these efforts by the Burmese military “textbook ethnic cleansing” and the U.S., particularly ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, has also been adamantly critical of the Burmese government’s actions. Those actions have now culminated in 90% of the Rohingya having left their entire state for the refuge of a neighboring country.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.