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October 20, 2017

Since late August, more than 580,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have arrived in Cox’s Bazar

The queen of Jordan, Rania Al Abdullah, is scheduled to visit Rohingya refugees at the Kutupalong Refugee Camp and its surrounding areas in Cox’s Bazar on Monday.

Her Majesty, as a board member of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and as an advocate of the work of UN humanitarian agencies, is going to make the tour.

The Jordanian Queen’s visit is also aimed at underscoring the urgent need for a dramatic increase in humanitarian assistance for this vulnerable population, said a media advisory of the UN refugee agency.

She is expected to meet Rohingya women and children, who recently crossed the border from Myanmar, and see some of the emergency services offered by the IRC, UNHCR, UNICEF, and other humanitarian agencies to the Rohingya.

Ending the visit, the queen will make a press statement, the advisory added.

Since late August, more than 580,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have arrived in Cox’s Bazar, marking the largest mass refugee influx in the region in decades and a major humanitarian crisis.

The sheer number of new arrivals has overwhelmed pre-existing service providers, causing significant challenges in the provision of essential lifesaving services and highlighting the need for greater concerted urgent international response.

October 18, 2017

More than 530,000 Rohingya men, women and children have fled northern Rakhine State in terror in a matter of weeks amid the Myanmar security forces’ targeted campaign of widespread and systematic murder, rape and burning, Amnesty International said today in its most detailed analysis yet of the ongoing crisis. 

‘My World Is Finished’: Rohingya Targeted in Crimes against Humanity in Myanmar describes how Myanmar’s security forces are carrying out a systematic, organized and ruthless campaign of violence against the Rohingya population as a whole in northern Rakhine State, after a Rohingya armed group attacked around 30 security posts on 25 August. 

Dozens of eyewitnesses to the worst violence consistently implicated specific units, including the Myanmar Army’s Western Command, the 33rd Light Infantry Division, and the Border Guard Police. 

“In this orchestrated campaign, Myanmar’s security forces have brutally meted out revenge on the entire Rohingya population of northern Rakhine State, in an apparent attempt to permanently drive them out of the country. These atrocities continue to fuel the region’s worst refugee crisis in decades,” said Tirana Hassan, Crisis Response Director at Amnesty International.

"Myanmar’s security forces have brutally meted out revenge on the entire Rohingya population of northern Rakhine State, in an apparent attempt to permanently drive them out of the country. Exposing these heinous crimes is the first step on the long road to justice."

“Exposing these heinous crimes is the first step on the long road to justice. Those responsible must be held to account; Myanmar’s military can’t simply sweep serious violations under the carpet by announcing another sham internal investigation. The Commander-in-Chief, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, must take immediate action to stop his troops from committing atrocities.”

Crimes against humanity

Witness accounts, satellite imagery and data, and photo and video evidence gathered by Amnesty International all point to the same conclusion: hundreds of thousands of Rohingya women, men, and children have been the victims of a widespread and systematic attack, amounting to crimes against humanity. 

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court lists 11 types of acts which, when knowingly committed during such an attack, constitute crimes against humanity. Amnesty International has consistently documented at least six of these amid the current wave of violence in northern Rakhine State: murder, deportation and forcible displacement, torture, rape and other sexual violence, persecution, and other inhumane acts such as denying food and other life-saving provisions.

This conclusion is based on testimonies from more than 120 Rohingya men and women who have fled to Bangladesh in recent weeks, as well as 30 interviews with medical professionals, aid workers, journalists and Bangladeshi officials.

Amnesty International’s experts corroborated many witness accounts of the Myanmar security forces’ crimes by analysing satellite imagery and data, as well as verifying photographs and video footage taken inside Rakhine State. The organization has also requested access to Rakhine State to investigate abuses on the ground, including by members of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), the Rohingya armed group. Amnesty International continues to call for unfettered access to the UN Fact-Finding Mission and other independent observers.

A Rohingya refugee who arrived by boat from Myanmar overnight looks at the final stretch before arriving to Bangladesh, 28 September 2017. © Andrew Stanbridge / Amnesty International

Murder and massacres

In the hours and days following the ARSA attacks on 25 August, the Myanmar security forces, sometimes joined by local vigilantes, surrounded Rohingya villages throughout the northern part of Rakhine State. As Rohingya women, men, and children fled their homes, the soldiers and police officers often opened fire, killing or seriously injuring at least hundreds of people. 

Survivors described running to nearby hills and rice fields, where they hid until the forces left. The elderly and people with disabilities were often unable to flee, and burned to death in their homes after the military set them alight.

This pattern was replicated in dozens of villages across Maungdaw, Rathedaung, and Buthidaung townships. But the security forces, and in particular the Myanmar military, appear to have unleashed their most lethal response in specific villages near where ARSA carried out its attacks. 

Amnesty International documented events in five such villages where at least a dozen people were killed: Chein Kar Li, Koe Tan Kauk, and Chut Pyin, all in Rathedaung Township; and Inn Din and Min Gyi, in Maungdaw Township. In Chut Pyin and Min Gyi, the death toll was particularly high, with at least scores of Rohingya women, men, and children killed by Myanmar security forces. 

Amnesty International interviewed 17 survivors of the massacre in Chut Pyin, six of whom had gunshot wounds. Almost all had lost at least one family member, with some losing many. They consistently described the Myanmar military, joined by Border Guard Police and local vigilantes, surrounding Chut Pyin, opening fire on those fleeing, and then systematically burning Rohingya houses and buildings.

Fatima, 12, told Amnesty International that she was at home with her parents, eight siblings, and grandmother when they saw fire rising from another part of their village. As the family ran out of their house, she said men in uniform opened fire on them from behind. She saw both her father and 10-year-old sister get shot, then Fatima was also hit in the back of her right leg, just above the knee. 

“I fell down, but my neighbour grabbed me and carried me,” she recalled. After a week on the run, she finally received treatment in Bangladesh. Her mother and older brother were also killed in Chut Pyin.

Satellite image shows the extent of fire damage in Chut Pyin village on 16 September 2017. Image: © 2017 DigitalGlobe, Inc. Source: © 2017 Google

Amnesty International sent photographs of Fatima’s wound to a forensic medical expert, who said it was consistent with a bullet wound that “would have entered the thigh from behind.” Medical professionals in Bangladesh described treating many wounds that appeared to have been caused by gunshots fired from behind –matching consistent witness testimony that the military fired on Rohingya as they tried to run away. 

In Chein Kar Li and Koe Tan Kauk, two neighbouring villages, Amnesty International documented the same pattern of attack by the Myanmar military.

Sona Mia, 77, said he was at home in Koe Tan Kauk when Myanmar soldiers surrounded the village and opened fire on 27 August. His 20-year-old daughter, Rayna Khatun, had a disability that left her unable to walk or speak. One of his sons put her on his shoulders, and the family slowly made its way toward the hill on the village’s edge. As they heard the shooting get closer and closer, they decided they had to leave Rayna in a Rohingya house that had been abandoned. 

“We didn’t think we’d be able to make it,” Sona Mia recalled. “I told her to sit there, we’d come back… After arriving on the hill, we spotted the house where we left her. It was a bit away, but we could see. The soldiers were burning [houses], and eventually we saw that house, it was burned too.” 

After the military left the village in the late afternoon, Sona Mia’s sons went down and found Rayna Khatun’s burnt body among the torched house. They dug a grave at the edge of that house’s courtyard, and buried her there.

Rape and other sexual violence

Amnesty International interviewed seven Rohingya survivors of sexual violence committed by the Myanmar security forces. Of those, four women and a 15-year-old girl had been raped, each in a separate group with between two and five other women and girls who were also raped. The rapes occurred in two villages that the organization investigated: Min Gyi in Maungdaw Township and Kyun Pauk in Buthidaung Township. 

As previously documented by Human Rights Watch and The Guardian, after entering Min Gyi (known locally as Tula Toli) on the morning of 30 August, Myanmar soldiers pursued Rohingya villagers who fled down to the riverbank and then separated the men and older boys from the women and younger children. 

After opening fire on and executing at least scores of men and older boys, as well as some women and younger children, the soldiers took women in groups to nearby houses where they raped them, before setting fire to those houses and other Rohingya parts of the village.

S.K., 30, told Amnesty International that after watching the executions, she and many other women and younger children were taken to a ditch, where they were forced to stand in knee-deep water:

“They took the women in groups to different houses. …There were five of us [women], taken by four soldiers [in military uniform]. They took our money, our possessions, and then they beat us with a wooden stick. My children were with me. They hit them too. Shafi, my two-year-old son, he was hit hard with a wooden stick. One hit, and he was dead… Three of my children were killed. Mohamed Osman (10) [and] Mohamed Saddiq (five) too. Other women [in the house] also had children [with them] that were killed. 

“All of the women were stripped naked…They had very strong wooden sticks. They first hit us in the head, to make us weak. Then they hit us [in the vagina] with the wooden sticks. Then they raped us. A different soldier for each [woman].” 

After raping women and girls, the soldiers set fire to the houses, killing many of the victims inside.

Deliberate, organized village burnings

On 3 October, the UN Operational Satellite Applications Programme (UNOSAT) reported that it had identified 20.7 square kilometres of buildings destroyed by fire in Maungdaw and Buthidaung Townships since 25 August. Even that likely underestimated the overall scale of destruction and burning, as dense cloud cover affected what the satellites were able to detect. 

Amnesty International’s own review of fire data from remote satellite sensing indicates at least 156 large fires in northern Rakhine State since 25 August, also likely to be an underestimate. In the previous five years, no fires were detected during the same period, which is also the monsoon season, strongly indicating that the burning has been intentional.

Before and after satellite images strikingly illustrate what witnesses also consistently told Amnesty International – that the Myanmar security forces only burned Rohingya villages or areas. For example, satellite images of Inn Din and Min Gyi show large swathes of structures razed by fire virtually side by side with areas that were left untouched. Distinct features of the untouched areas, combined with accounts from Rohingya residents as to where they and other ethnic communities lived in those villages, indicate that only Rohingya areas were razed.

Amnesty International has noted a similar pattern in at least a dozen more villages where Rohingya lived in close proximity to people from other ethnicities.

“Given their ongoing denials, Myanmar’s authorities may have thought they would literally get away with murder on a massive scale. But modern technology, coupled with rigorous human rights research, have tipped the scales against them,” said Tirana Hassan.

"Given their ongoing denials, Myanmar’s authorities may have thought they would literally get away with murder on a massive scale. But modern technology, coupled with rigorous human rights research, have tipped the scales against them."

“It is time for the international community to move beyond public outcry and take action to end the campaign of violence that has driven more than half the Rohingya population out of Myanmar. Through cutting off military cooperation, imposing arms embargoes and targeted sanctions on individuals responsible for abuses, a clear message must be sent that the military’s crimes against humanity in Rakhine State will not be tolerated.

“The international community must ensure that the ethnic cleansing campaign does not achieve its unlawful, reprehensible goal. To do so, the international community must combine encouraging and supporting Bangladesh in providing adequate conditions and safe asylum to Rohingya refugees, with ensuring that Myanmar respects their human right to return safely, voluntarily and with dignity to their country and insisting that it ends, once and for all, the systematic discrimination against the Rohingya and other root causes of the current crisis.”

Rohingya refugees who fled from Myanmar wait to be let through by Bangladeshi border guards after crossing the border in Palang Khali, Bangladesh October 16, 2017. REUTERS/ Zohra Bensemra

October 19, 2017

More than 40 lawmakers urged the Trump administration on Wednesday to reimpose U.S. travel bans on Myanmar's military leaders and prepare targeted sanctions against those responsible for a crackdown on the country's Rohingya Muslim minority.

WASHINGTON: More than 40 lawmakers urged the Trump administration on Wednesday to reimpose U.S. travel bans on Myanmar's military leaders and prepare targeted sanctions against those responsible for a crackdown on the country's Rohingya Muslim minority.

In a letter sent to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, a group of Republican and Democratic members of the House of Representatives called for "meaningful steps" against Myanmar's military and others who have committed human rights abuses in an offensive that has driven more than 500,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the Southeast Asian nation.

"Burma's authorities appear to be in denial of what has happened," stated the letter. "We urge you to do everything possible to ensure protection and security for those trapped inside Burma or willing to return, as well as oppose forcible returns from neighbouring countries."

(Reporting by Matt Spetalnick; Editing by Sandra Maler)

A Rohingya refugee boy sits on the ground at Tang Khali refugee camp near Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Oct. 18, 2017.

By Joe Freeman, Muktadir Rashid
October 19, 2017

YANGON — The Bangladeshi government has registered thousands of orphans in Rohingya refugee camps as officials and aid groups attempt to figure out a plan to deal with large numbers of unaccompanied minors.

Nearly 600,000 stateless Rohingya Muslims have left Myanmar since attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army on August 25, sparking a military response that rights groups and the United Nations have described as ethnic cleansing.

A majority of those who have fled are children, and many may have lost their parents in Myanmar or along the way. Children in UNICEF's child-friendly centers have drawn gruesome pictures of military raids and violent attacks on villagers, though Myanmar vigorously denies targeting civilians.

WATCH: UNHCR Drone Footage of Rohingya Refugees

Difficult task

Pritam Kumar Chowdhury, the deputy director of the Social Welfare Department in Cox’s Bazar district, said there may be more than 15,000 orphans, though he says verifying individual claims is difficult with scant additional information.

“In Bangladesh, when we identify any orphan, our officials visit their house to confirm it. But here it is not possible to go to Myanmar to verify the claims. So whatever they are saying we are collecting that information,” he told VOA, adding that the government is also talking to neighbors and people whom the children may have traveled with from Myanmar.

“But there is no evidence, rather we are depending on the verbal statement. We are maintaining our strategy to complete the formalities. We are not claiming it is 100 percent correct but it is not all a wrong list.”

Rohingya Muslim children, who crossed over from Myanmar into Bangladesh, stretch out their arms out to collect chocolates and milk distributed by Bangladeshi men at Taiy Khali refugee camp, Bangladesh, Sept. 21, 2017.

Jean-Jacques Simon, a spokesperson for UNICEF, said in an email that out of the 14,740 children registered as "orphans" with the government, half of the cases have been reviewed and entered into the Ministry of Social Welfare database.

There were only 15 known cases of children actually living completely alone in the camps. UNICEF says it is in contact with the government at the local level "to know where these 15 children are right now and to ensure their protection."

Chaotic situation

The dusty roads of the camps and makeshift settlements in southern Bangladesh are teeming with children, some attended by adults and others not, and the chaotic situation makes them vulnerable to abuse and other risks.

“We really need to have a space for the children,” said Dr. Erum Mariam, the director of the BRAC Institute of Educational Development.

BRAC, an NGO based in Bangladesh, has helped organize clothing donations for children, build child-friendly spaces, and provide on-site counsellors.

Rohingya children walk to their tents after fetching drinking water at a makeshift camp near Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Oct. 3, 2017.

“We are really working on many different levels now,” she said.

The government has also floated the idea of building orphanages, and discussed the idea with aid groups this week, Mariam said.

If the idea does move forward, it’s important to have the capacity to make it work, she added.

“There has to be so much engagement with the children, and understanding, understanding the trauma,” she said.

Pritam, with the Social Welfare Department, said more concrete options will be considered once officials have a clearer idea of the scope of the problem.

“Their fate will be decided by the government. But until then, we are concentrating on registration. Whatever the decision will be will come afterwards,” he said.

Rohingya refugees receive food on the road after they received permission from the Bangladeshi army to continue their way to Kutupalong refugee camps, near Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh on Oct 19, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

October 19, 2017

COX'S BAZAR, BANGLADESH -- Thousands of Rohingya Muslims stranded near Bangladesh's border this week after fleeing violence in Myanmar have finally been permitted to enter refugee camps after "strict screening", officials said Thursday (Oct 19).

The UN had expressed deep concern about the new wave of around 10,000 refugees, including children and elderly people who, dehydrated and hungry from the long journey, had been stopped from crossing the border into Bangladesh and left to squat in paddy fields.

It was not immediately clear why the new arrivals were being held in an area of no man's land, but the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) had said it was calling on the Bangladesh authorities "to urgently admit" the group.

Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) spokesman Major Iqbal Ahmed told AFP on Thursday that the newcomers, who were blocked at Anjumanpara near the border town of Ukhiya, had been screened "very carefully" to stop "unwanted visitors".

"After strict checking, they are being taken to the extended Kutupalong camp where they will receive some basic goods and later will be shifted to another camp," said Ahmed.

Excluding the latest wave, the UN says some 582,000 Rohingya refugees had fled Myanmar for Bangladesh since late August, when militant attacks on Myanmar's security forces in Rakhine state sparked a major army crackdown.

But Bangladesh, which has been overwhelmed by the influx of people fleeing the violence, is wary of radical Islamists getting into its refugee camps where there are now more than 800,000 Rohingya in all.

Many of the new arrivals were from Rakhine's Buthidaung district, which lies relatively far from the border with Bangladesh.

Some told an AFP correspondent they had trekked for days to reach the border as their villages remain under military surveillance and they had nothing to eat.

"We ran out of food," said Shamser Alam, 21, from Yin Ma Kyaung Taung village near Buthidaung town.

"There is no village market. There are too many restrictions. We don't have freedom. Not more than five people can pray together." Sufia Khatun, a mother of four, said one of her sons was killed in a stampede after Buddhist militants attacked her village.

"We ran for our lives and I lost Jalal. Later I found he was killed in the stampede," she told AFP.

Sanjida Khatun, from Phone Nyo Lake village who tried to escape with her husband Mohammad Amin, three sons and a 15-day-old baby, said she was attacked by armed men while going to the border.

"They indiscriminately hacked my husband to death. I narrowly escaped with my sons," she said.

Myanmar has subjected the 1.1 million Rohingya community to decades of hostility and refused them citizenship even though many have lived there for generations.

Bangladesh has announced plans to build a refugee camp that could accommodate around 800,000 Rohingya in Kutupalong.

The camp would be the largest in the world and has raised concerns about the risks of heavily concentrating such a large number of vulnerable people, such as the spread of disease.

Mohammad Yunus, the Rohingya child whose three elder brothers were killed by the Myanmar army at Poyrabazar village in the Rakhine state's Maungdaw (Photo: Dhaka Tribune)

By Mahadi Al Hasnat
October 18, 2017

Fourteen-year-old Mohammad Yunus tells his story of losing three brothers along with hundreds of other villagers at the hands of the Myanmar army and local Buddhists one night in early September

Mohammad Yunus had a big family with seven siblings – three sisters and four brothers – at Poyrabazar village in the Rakhine state’s Maungdaw. His sisters were married and lived in different places while his brothers were all busy farming.

One night in early September, the Myanmar military swooped in along with local Buddhists and killed hundreds of residents of the village. Yunus’ three brothers — Khairul Amin, Rafikul Alam and Shanchu Alam – were detained by the army and brutally killed.

“They stormed our house late at night when we were all asleep. They searched every room in the house and took my brothers. I fled through the back door with my parents,” the 14-year-old recalled.

“The army and fundamentalist Buddhist leaders were targeting the young men in the village. They took my brothers and other young men to a jungle with their hands tied and eyes blindfolded. The Buddhists slit their throats and the rest were killed by the army.

“Some of the dead were burnt and the rest were buried in mass grave in the remote areas,” he added.

Yunus and their parents joined thousands of fellow Rohingya to escape to Bangladesh. A significant number of these refugees are suffering from severe physical and psychological trauma.

“I did not realise how true my brother Khairul’s advice to find safety really was, after the crackdown on August 25,” Yunus told the Dhaka Tribune at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar.

Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch’s emergencies director and an expert in humanitarian crisis, earlier told the Dhaka Tribune that refugee orphans and unaccompanied children were more vulnerable in Myanmar.

“The orphaned refugee children need family support within the chaotic situation in camps. They do not have anyone to talk to about what they have gone through. And they do not even have anyone helping them for their daily activities,” said Bouckaert.

He suggested that these children need immediate counselling and access to school in order to return to a semblance of normal life in the camps.

Although Myanmar has been blaming the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) for attacking and killing villagers in Rakhine state, a number Rohingya children in Bangladesh described the violence as a military atrocity with the help of local Buddhist extremists.

More than a half million Rohingya have been displaced from their ancestral land and forced to seek refuge in Bangladesh after the Myanmar military launched an offensive targeting the ethnic minority in August.

Although the army claimed the “security operations” were initiated after ARSA insurgents attacked police posts and an army base, a UN probe said the offensive had started earlier, possibly in early August.

The UN has described Myanmar violence as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.

Thirteen-year-old Khaleda Begum left her village Bolibazar in Maungdaw late September when the military and local Buddhist fundamentalists arrived, killing and raping Rohingya women. She and her parents fled to Bangladesh but two of her sisters were taken by the military.

“With the help of local Moghs, the military collected young women and girls from the village. The soldiers took the girls to the jungle. After raping them, the soldiers slit their throats and left them to die,” Khaleda said, describing some of the most horrific details of the Myanmar army’s activities.

Eleven-year-old Roshid Ullah from Zambonia village in Maungdaw now begs at the refugee camp.

“That night, the sound of gunshots and the screams of people woke us up. We tried to get out, but my father realised we were locked in from the outside. They set our house on fire. My parents broke a window and threw me out to save me,” Roshid said.

He walked for three days to reach Bangladesh. “When we arrived at the border, there were thousands of people. For the three long days, we walked though mountains, rivers and canals without any food.”

Roshid does not know if his parents were alive. “In Myanmar, I had a happy life with my parents. They loved me so much and I never felt this alone. I remember my mother every night and I cannot forget what happened that night,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.

Sixteen-year-old Mohammad Anwar was shot in the arm.

Hailing from Thom Bazar in Buthidaung, he said: “It was a Friday morning in late August and I went to the Thom Bazar, a market of Muslim traders where I used to work at a shop. It was a sunny day and people were busy when suddenly several military vehicles showed up and cordoned off the market.

“They opened fired indiscriminately. Many people were killed on the spot or injured. I hid behind a wall but got shot the arm,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.

A Rohingya refugee woman who crossed the border from Myanmar a day before, carries her daughter and searches for help as they wait to receive permission from the Bangladeshi army to continue their way to the refugee camps, in Palang Khali, Bangladesh October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Jorge Silva

By David Brunnstrom, Jonathan Landay
October 18, 2017

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on Wednesday the United States held Myanmar’s military leadership responsible for its harsh crackdown on the Rohingya Muslim minority. 

Tillerson, however, stopped short of saying whether the United States would take any action against Myanmar’s military leaders over an offensive that has driven more than 500,000 Rohingya Muslims out of the country. 

Washington has worked hard to establish close ties with Myanmar’s civilian-led government led by Nobel laureate and former dissident Aung San Suu Kyi in the face of competition from strategic rival China. 

“The world can’t just stand idly by and be witness to the atrocities that are being reported in the area,” Tillerson told Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. 

“We really hold the military leadership accountable for what’s happening,” said Tillerson, who said the United States was “extraordinarily concerned” by the situation. 

Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar in large numbers since late August when Rohingya insurgent attacks sparked a ferocious military response, with the fleeing people accusing security forces of arson, killings and rape. 

Tillerson said Washington understood Myanmar had a militancy problem, but the military had to be disciplined and restrained in the way it dealt with this and to allow access to the region “so that we can get a full accounting of the circumstances.”

“Someone, if these reports are true, is going to be held to account for that,” Tillerson said. “And it’s up to the military leadership of Burma to decide, ‘What direction do they want to play in the future of Burma?'” 

Tillerson said Washington saw Myanmar, which is also known as Burma, as “an important emerging democracy,” but the Rohingya crisis was a test for the power-sharing government. 

He said the United States would remain engaged, including ultimately at the United Nations “with the direction this takes.” 

The European Union and the United States have been considering targeted sanctions against Myanmar’s military leadership. 

Punitive measures aimed specifically at top generals are among a range of options that have been discussed, but they are wary of action that could hurt the wider economy or destabilize already tense ties between Suu Kyi and the army. 

Tillerson also said he would visit New Delhi next week as the Trump administration sought to dramatically deepen cooperation with India in response to China’s challenges to “international law and norms” in Asia. 

Tillerson said the administration had began a “quiet conversation” with some emerging East Asian democracies about creating alternatives to Chinese infrastructure financing. 

Reporting by David Brunnstrom and Jonathan Landay; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Alistair Bell

A Rohingya family reaches the Bangladesh border after crossing a creek of the Naf river on the border with Myanmmar, AP Bernat Armangue

ST PETERSBURG, Russia -- The global parliamentary community has condemned today the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority in the Northern Rakhine state of Myanmar. MPs have called upon the Government of Myanmar to end immediately the violence and forced displacement of the Rohingya and the blatant violations of their human rights.

In a resolution on the emergency item on it agenda, adopted today at the 137th Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), MPs expressed grave concern over the unprecedented exodus of one million Rohingya to Bangladesh and the humanitarian and potential security consequences for that country and the region. The Rohingya began fleeing when an insurgent attack led to a massive military response.

"This resolution urges the global parliamentary community to take concrete steps to put an end to the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya from Rakhine state, and to end further human rights violations," explained Saber Chowdhury, the IPU President. "We cannot remain on the sidelines as one million people flee violence and persecution. This crisis is a major threat to regional peace and security."

The resolution strongly recommends the creation of temporary safe zones inside Myanmar under UN supervision to protect all civilians irrespective of religion and ethnicity. MPs have also urged the Parliament of Myanmar to make every effort to stop the violence and to put an end to this tragic situation.

"The resolution on the emergency item at this year's Assembly was adopted by an overwhelming majority of the world's parliamentarians, reflecting the concern of the entire global community over the situation. I believe that this signal will be heard by the authorities and by parliamentarians in Myanmar, and that it will enable them to take effective steps to normalise the situation and avoid a large-scale humanitarian disaster," explained the Assembly President, Valentina Matvienko.

IPU Secretary General Martin Chungong explained, "The situation of the Rohingya is unacceptable. It is vital that parliamentarians from around the world stand together to condemn this atrocity." 

Other issues proposed as an emergency item were the political crisis in Venezuela and the threat to peace and international security posed by the nuclear tests conducted by the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Djibouti, which proposed a resolution on the role of parliaments in maintaining international security and peace, withdrew it as a gesture of solidarity to reach consensus on one item.

As the Assembly may only adopt one emergency item, the selection process consists of a vote in the plenary. Requests must receive a two-thirds majority of the votes cast in order to be accepted. Of these, the one that receives the largest number of positive votes will be accepted. For the IPU 137th Assembly, two proposals - the DPRK's nuclear testing and the Rohingya crisis - received a two-thirds majority. The proposal on the Rohinyga crisis received the most votes in the plenary, and was selected as the emergency item.

The Myanmar government has engaged in at least four of the five genocidal acts outlined in the Genocide Convention against the Rohingya, writes Starr Kinseth [Showkat Shafi/Al Jazeera]

By Ashley Starr Kinseth
October 18, 2017

On the night of August 25, an attack on Myanmarsecurity forces by a handful of Rohingya militants in Northern Rakhine State prompted a brutal government counter-offensive that has, in turn, led to the greatest refugee crisis of the twenty-first century. Since then, more than 500,000 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, with some estimating that as many as 15,000 continue to make the dangerous journey each day. In fact, in terms of rate of escalation, this is the greatest mass exodus - and has the makings to become the most significant humanitarian catastrophe - since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, when over 800,000 Hutus and moderate Tutsis were slaughtered over a mere 100-day period. 

To much of the international community, Myanmar's Rohingya crisis appears sudden, with few to no warning signs; indeed, it is only in recent weeks that the word "Rohingya" has begun to crop up in international headlines and to seep into the world's collective consciousness and conscience. Yet as a human rights lawyer who has long followed the Rohingya situation - and was present in Northern Rakhine the morning the violence erupted - I can say there is no question that the crisis unfolding now has been in the making for years, if not decades. Perhaps more importantly, by international legal and historical standards, the crisis bears all the characteristics of a genocide in bloom.

In fact, for those who have followed the situation closely, the use of the word "genocide" should come as no surprise. For generations, the Rohingya have faced an ever-growing list of discriminatory policies and state-sanctioned rights violations designed to cull the unwanted minority's numbers and force them from their ancestral lands: key markers of genocide. 

The oldest among them have seen their citizenship revoked and their children born stateless; they suffer tight restrictions on movement and access to education and healthcare; and the number of children a couple may bear has been legally limited to two. 

The Rohingya also regularly endure extortions for minor "offenses"; they have been barred from gathering in groups of more than five and require permission to hold routine events (like marriages); and have even faced limitations on the materials used to build or repair homes and other buildings (brick and concrete being considered too "permanent" for the unwanted minority). Direct reports from at least one prison also indicate that some prisoners from other parts of the country had been released early on condition that they resettle in Northern Rakhine in order to maximise the Buddhist population and limit Rohingya landholdings.

The Rohingya have also endured periodic crackdowns designed to drive them from their land, dating at least as far back as Operation King Dragon in 1978, with more recent pogroms in 1991 and 2012. Since 2012, smaller spates of violence have erupted, each time accompanied by reports of government and mob-led village raids and burnings, rapes and murders (sometimes two-sided), and ever-increasing restrictions on Rohingya movement and activity. 

Yet the present crisis undoubtedly represents the most extreme and disproportionate onslaught of violence, with widely corroborated horror tales from Rohingya refugees of savagely violent gang rapes, merciless tortures and beheadings, and even babies tossed into fires

If not adequately frightening on their own, these facts must be placed in a disconcertingly modern context: for there has never been a more powerful tool for the rapid dissemination of hate speech and racist-nationalist vitriol than Facebook and other social media. From a Western perspective, the dangers are easy to spot; one need only look to social media's role in recent elections and political debates to witness the rate at which false information can spread, and the surprising number of individuals who can fall prey to hateful and dangerous rhetoric, a phenomenon presently blazing across Myanmar society. 

Yet perhaps most disturbingly, historically, one can hardly fail to see the parallels between the current use of social media in Myanmar and that of radio in Rwanda to incite mob violence. The key exception is that social media is by all accounts an even faster, more graphic, immersive, "democratic", and ultimately, dangerous tool for the dissemination of hate speech: perhaps the most significant precursor to genocide.

Still, despite these new realities, the conflict we see now may once have been preventable, if not for the dancing around international law and realpolitiking at which the world's governments have played ever since the term "genocide" first entered the international legal lexicon in the aftermath of the Holocaust. 

In the wake of World War II, the international community of states came together in an unprecedented manner, forming the United Nations, and - as one of its first orders of business - passing the Genocide Convention in 1948, which forbade a series of acts committed with the "intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group".

The Convention placed heavy weight on the use of the term "genocide" by governments - essentially requiring that, once a party to the Convention recognised that a genocide was occurring in another state, it bore a responsibility to act to stop the atrocities. Unfortunately, the planet's collective memory and joint resolve proved short-lived, as international governments - and particularly the United States - have spent decades performing mind-bending linguistic backflips to avoid public use of the term.

Instead, we see politicians using turns of phrase such as "genocidal acts may have been committed" to circumvent outright use of the word itself - and in turn, to avoid violating what is perhaps international law's most sacred treaty. 

It thus comes as little surprise that the Rohingya crisis has until recently garnered little international attention. In fact, to date, only one world leader - France's newly-minted President Macron - has dared utter the word, vowing on September 20 to work with the Security Council to condemn "this genocide which is unfolding, this ethnic cleansing." 

Unfortunately, the very structure of the UN makes coordinated intervention (like deployment of a peacekeeping mission) highly unlikely, as this would surely be met by a Security Council veto by China. Indeed, such intra-UN constraints help to explain why - though many in the Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide have long been aware of the Rohingya crisis - the Special Adviser has spoken rarely and hesitantly on the situation. 

This is despite the fact that the Myanmar government has engaged in at least four of the five genocidal acts outlined in the Genocide Convention, including "killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; and imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group."

But if not genocide, what might we call the horrific situation unfolding in Northern Rakhine? No doubt the "Rohingya issue" is viewed much differently throughout Myanmar, where most believe the Rohingya to be illegal Bengali migrants of questionable (or at least exceedingly "different") moral character; reproducing at a high and disproportionate rate (factually disproven); and hell-bent on Islamicising the predominantly Buddhist nation. Indeed, I have met many educated Myanmar citizens - from aid workers to fellow human rights lawyers - who carry these views, and who are quick to except the Rohingya from rights that they would otherwise view as inherent to all human beings. It is this pervasive dehumanisation of the Rohingya - backed by military and religious forces that rely on the existence of a despised "other" to maintain some semblance of power amidst Myanmar's precarious democratisation - that have allowed for the Rohingya's continuing persecution.

Admittedly, the atrocities we witness today in Northern Rakhine are not entirely one-sided. Surely, many Rakhine Buddhists also suffer the effects of conflict, and international media should also report on this suffering. Yet having visited many Rohingya and Rakhine villages, and remaining in touch with many Rohingya and Rakhine contacts, I also could not in good conscience equate the two groups' experiences or poverty levels, as many in Myanmar print and social media circles routinely demand of international observers. 

Rakhine Buddhists are surely poorer than most ethnic groups in Myanmar (excepting, perhaps, only the Rohingya), and many do currently suffer alongside the Rohingya in terms of physical and food security. However, it would be false to suggest that as many Rakhine Buddhist villages have been looted and razed, or as many Rakhine Buddhist individuals raped, tortured, slaughtered, or otherwise victimised, as have the Rohingya. And while I know of some Rakhine Buddhists who have also become internally displaced - no doubt under deeply abhorrent circumstances - the fact is they possess the freedom of movement to do so and a greater chance of attaining aid and even alternative livelihoods elsewhere in Myanmar. 

All that said, if Myanmar continues to refuse access to Northern Rakhine by neutral observers, then there will be no way for the international media to provide the balanced reporting frequently demanded by Myanmar's citizenry. Instead, as it stands, we outside observers must rely either on our own direct experience to date - as I have here - or on reports flooding across the border from, one must imagine, the most vulnerable Rohingya. In the meantime, it appears that the international community of states, favouring inaction, has tiptoed around such deeply disturbing refugee accounts for far too long. And from the perspective of an international lawyer, based on the information that is presently available to outsiders, there can only be one word for the Rohingya experience in Myanmar: and that word is genocide.

Ashley Starr Kinseth is an international human rights and humanitarian lawyer.

October 18, 2017

TEHRAN -- Activist and scholar Maung Zarni says that the plight of Muslim Rohingyas has gotten worse under the administration of Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and now there are about 100,000 Rohingyas fleeing their homeland every week.

The Burmese scholar in an exclusive interview with FNA said that Aung San SuuKyi’s leadership has been the direct product of the icon manufacturing by Western media and activists which was intended to give acceptability to what, he believes, is a “military-controlled ethnocracy, wrapped in Buddhism”.

According to the rights activist, Rohingyas in Myanmar live under restrictive measures of movement, marriage and child control in either open prisons or internally displaced persons camps (IDP camps). He also added that the Muslim minority’s access to food supplies and medical care is awfully limited.

Maung Zarni is a democracy advocate, Rohingya campaigner, and an adviser to European Centre for the Study of Extremism. He is also a research fellow at Genocide Documentation Centre and has been frequently interviewed by international media outlets such as BBC, Al Jazeera, Press TV and TRT World.

FNA has conducted an interview with Maung Zarni about the terrible living conditions of the Rohingya Muslims and the reasons behind the inaction by the so-called international community to stop what the United Nations calls "textbook ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya.

Below you will find the full text of the interview.

Q: Rohingya Muslims are not included in Myanmar’s list of 135 official minorities meaning they are deprived of the right to citizenship. Why do you think the Rohingyas have been left stateless by their own government in the first place?

Firstly, 135 official minorities are nothing but a fiction used by the Burmese military to justify their institutional narrative that Myanmar faces constant threat of Balkanization, if the military return to the barracks. So, I don’t and won’t repeat the regime’s self-serving propaganda. The military has since early 1960’s shifted its policy of the official embrace of Rohingyas as an ethnic community of the Union of Burma to a radical strategic perspective according to which a sizeable pocket of Muslims in a single geographic pocket next to a populous Muslim region of the then Pakistan was a threat to Burma’s national security. Every wave of expulsion, violence, death and destruction of Rohingyas over the last 40 years has been triggered by this dangerous strategic paradigm. 

Q: Aung San SuuKyi’s coming to power as the Nobel Peace laureate and first democratic government brought about major hopes to the Burmese including the Rohingya. In your opinion, has anything changed for the Muslim minority since she took office?

Suu Kyi’s leadership, and Suu Kyi the person, have been the direct product of the icon manufacturing by Western media and activists. Her ascendency to de facto leadership has only lent the veneer of acceptability to what really is a military-controlled ethnocracy, wrapped in Buddhism. The plight of Muslim Rohingyas has gotten worse, with 100,000 fleeing every week. Mirroring the military’s Muslim-free armed forces, she presides over her party, National League for Democracy (NLD), and the NLD-controlled Parliament, with not a single Muslim representation. 

Q: There are reports about mosques across Burma being damaged or completely destroyed and authorities have been refusing to allow Muslims to repair their mosques. Why is the government refusing to allow the Muslim minority to access their place of worship which is considered to be a fundamental right to freedom of expression and religion?

Mosques – like any places of worship in any religion – serve as the anchor of Muslim communities throughout Burma. The severe restrictions on the repair, renovation, or expansion of mosques are motivated by the intent to prevent the growth of the community in spirit and strength. It is a part of the Buddhist ethnocratic state’s attempt to monitor, control and subjugate Muslim communities – although Islam in Burma has long been a peaceful religion for centuries since it arrived centuries ago.

Q: Could you please let us know about the conditions of displaced Rohingyas living both in and outside Myanmar’s borders?

Even seasoned humanitarian workers would tell you how shocked they are at the first sight of the conditions under which Rohingyas living in India and Bangladesh. Inside Myanmar, Rohingyas live in two different types of situation: open vast prisons and the internally displaced persons camps. They have no freedom of movement; all aspects of their lives are totally controlled by the Burmese military authorities at the top of the administrative structures and local Buddhist Rakhine who occupy the majority of the admin posts. Rohingyas’ access to food and food systems (such as streams and rivers, paddy fields, etc.) as well as opportunities to earn a living has been controlled and restricted. Doctor-patience ratio for the two major towns – Buthidaung and Maungdaw – are estimated to be 1: 150,000 – while the national average is 1: 1,000 – 2,000. Extreme malnutrition is prevalent with sub-Sahara-like conditions. Only Rohingyas are singled out for strict marriage control and child control. Rape and gang-rape of Rohingya women and even girls are rampant. Mass arrests of Rohingya males are routine. Summary execution, forced labour, extortions, etc. are routinely practised by the security troops that split Rohingya region into two dozen security grids. It is this kind of inhuman conditions under which Rohingyas are forced to exist – not live as humans – that has been a major push factor behind regular, if less dramatic and less reported than the most recent one, waves of fleeing Rohingyas. Emphatically, I must state that these conditions are maintained as a matter of policy by the central governments since the late 1970’s: to destroy life as we know it, for the entire Rohingya community as a distinct ethnic group, whether recognized by the State officially, as such or not. Precisely because of the policy of destroying Rohingya community as a group I have been calling this a genocide – a textbook genocidal act as defined by the Genocide Convention. 

Q: The state counsellor faces mounting criticism over what the United Nations calls "textbook ethnic cleansing" of Rohingya. This systematic persecution has been ongoing for years. Why do you think we do not see any strong reaction by international human rights organizations, namely the United Nations to stop all the injustice and atrocities?

To the UN and all the world powers, typically all genocides are inconveniences. The refusal to recognize the nature of the heinous crimes by its proper legal name, that is, genocide speaks volumes about the absence of collective will to end this international crime. I find it utterly disgusting that UN and even human rights agencies opting to call it by Milosevic’s original euphemism. The genocidal Serb was a clever bastard who knew ‘ethnic cleansing’ was not a crime under international law. If a crime is recognized as genocide that the UN system would be obliged to intervene to end it. Truth is international law is nothing without the political will to enforce it. Ending genocide has never been deemed strategically or commercially profitable. Hence, empty talks and outcome less meetings.

Q: On several occasions we have seen the western countries, namely the US and the UK, acting without a mandate from the United Nations Security Council. We have seen them imposing sanctions and even taking military action against countries solely based on their own political and geopolitical interests. But when it comes to Myanmar, they do not seem to be much concerned about the ongoing genocide and ethnic cleansing as we do not see any strong reaction. What do you think is the reason behind the double standard?

UK and USA are known to bypass the Security Council, in pursuing their strategic interests, however defined. They have launched invasions in countries throughout the world, from Korea and Vietnam to Africa and the Middle East. But ending genocides is viewed as part of their strategic interest. Additionally, they delude themselves into thinking that some semblance of democracy and human rights regime can still be salvaged with its Burmese proxy Aung San Suu Kyi, although she has lost the support and admiration of the world. The truth is UN and international law, as well as the institutions of global governance do not work for the oppressed majority of peoples around the world. Rohingyas are not an exception. 

Q: Aung SanSuu Kyi did not attend this year’s UN General Assembly session. She did so without providing any reason for the withdrawal. As we discussed, the United Nations so far has failed to act properly to stop the violence. Why do you think then she decided to cancel her trip to the UN?

It’s a clear sign that she now views the world as a hostile place for her to go. The world no longer sees her as “the hopes of Burma”, let alone “the voice of the voiceless”. She has become world-infamous for hiding her head in the sand when it comes to issues of crucial import to the country. Forget going to the UN where she expected strong criticism of her leadership failures. She has no moral or intellectual integrity to confront inconvenient realities of her country, particularly the issue of Rohingya genocide that concerns the world.

October 17, 2017

Sitting in a Yangon cafe, Min Min scrolls through old photos of a bombing attack on his house in Myanmar's northern Rakhine state.

The 28-year-old journalist told Al Jazeera that he was targeted last year due to his reporting of the Rohingya crisis.

It is a risky business, he said.

"If I keep trying to investigate the truth about issues in Rakhine state, my life could be in danger," Min, the editor of the Rakhine Investigative Agency, said.

The young journalist revealed that his monthly political magazine had to reduce its coverage of the mainly-Muslim minority group during the recent incidents in the western town of Maungdaw.

"We had to be silent, we almost don't cover it because we have to be very careful," Min said.

Since August 25, the Myanmar army has waged a brutal military campaign in Rakhine against the Rohingya, who have been denied citizenship and basic rights by the Myanmar government.

More than 500,000 Rohingya have fled the country, most arriving in Bangladesh by foot or by boat, with aid agencies struggling to cope with the influx.

The UN has denounced the situation as a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".

'You feel cramped'

Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi and her government have criticised international media coverage of the crisis and the UN workers documenting the Rohingya plight, dismissing their reports as fake news.

"Dismissal and denial of well-documented accusations, allegations and evidence is part of genocide," Maung Zarni, a Burmese human rights activists, told Al Jazeera's The Listening Post.

"Dismissing the reports of hundreds of women who have been wronged and violated and Suu Kyi dismissing them as fake news, fake rape. That was what you read on Aung San Suu Kyi's official Facebook page: fake rape," he added. 

Al Jazeera has spoken to half a dozen journalists from Myanmar who say they are facing some form of harassment, even death threats, for not toeing the government line on the Rohingya issue.

Local journalists say the censorship and harassment are affecting their jobs. 

"You feel more cramped, you feel trapped, when you're writing the news before it's published," said one Myanmar journalist.

He does not want to reveal his identity because he fears further public backlash.

"You have this fear what would be the public response, will they be swearing at me again online. This is directly affecting the journalists' work," the reporter added. 

'Dreadful PR machine'

Al Jazeera's Yaara Bou Melhem, reporting from Yangon, said the pro-government narrative is evident in the daily newspaper headlines.

One was about authorities saying they will continue to fight what they call "Islamic terrorism" in Rakhine state, she reported.

The government has classified the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), which launched attacks on hundreds of police posts and an army base in August, a "terrorist group". 

Government social media accounts also say that Rohingya are burning their homes. 

A UN report recently cited the burning of Rohingya homes by Myanmar's military as part of campaign to expel and prevent the return of Rohingya to Myanmar, an allegation the government has rejected as false. 

"These kind of attacks are not happening," Wyn Myat Aye, minister for social welfare and resettlement, said.

"These accusations are spreading throughout the world even though there has been no attack after September 5 and this is due to the media's role. This is the very bad performance of the media. I can say that the media is bullying us."

Meanwhile, analysts have criticised the government's role in pushing its agenda.

"The government PR machine on this entire issue has been absolutely dreadful," Davis Mathieson, an independent Myanmar analyst, told Al Jazeera. 

"It's been something almost Orwellian, dystopian and incredibly cheap and nasty." 

The Rakhine Investigative Agency's Min Min worries not just for his country's future, but for his magazine.

He said two of his six-member staff quit this month because he would not let them use the words "Bengali terrorist" in their reports.

He remains afraid of what else he could lose if he continues to search for the truth in Myanmar.

Rohingya children queue to collect food in a refugee camp in Ukhiya, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. the World Food Programme has withdrawn a critical report on hunger in Myanmar at the request of the government. Photograph: Abir Abdullah/EPA

The Guardian's Exclusive: Document warned of spiralling food crisis among Rohingya population

By Oliver Holmes
October 17, 2017

The United Nations food aid agency withdrew a critical report revealing desperate hunger among the persecuted Rohingya population after the Myanmar government demanded it be taken down, the Guardian has learned.

The July assessment by the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that more than 80,000 children under the age of five living in majority-Muslim areas were “wasting” — a potentially fatal condition of rapid weight loss.

The six-page document, which was reported on at the time, was replaced with a statement saying Myanmar and WFP were “collaborating on a revised version”.

That process would involve “representatives from various ministries, and will respond to the need for a common approach” that was in line with “WFP’s future cooperation with the government”.

The report should not be cited in any way, the statement added.

However, WFP’s executive director David Beasley said in an emailed statement to the Guardian later on Tuesday that the agency would republish the report.

“The assessment should not have been removed and I have directed that it be republished immediately in its original form,” Beasley said. “Put simply, the World Food Programme stands firmly behind the findings of the report.”

He said that the level of food needs in Rakhine state had likely since changed for the worse and called for authorities to allow free and unhindered access to aid deliveries.

The revelation that the report was spiked will add to a series of recent criticisms that UN did not push the government hard enough for the rights of 1.1 million Rohingya in Myanmar or sound the alarm on their spiralling oppression.

The issue exploded on 25 August when Rohingya insurgents attacked security forces, who responded with a severe counteroffensive. More than half a million Rohingya have since fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, many alleging the army conducted mass killings and rapes, claims the government denies. 

The UN’s most senior official in the country will leave at the end of the month amid allegations she suppressed another report, a damning consultation of the UN’s strategy, and also attempted to shut down public advocacy on Rohingya suffering. She leaves in the middle of the current crisis, the worst in decades, while a replacement has not been publicly announced.

Asked why the July study on Rakhine state was removed, WFP said earlier that it was withdrawn from the website “following a request by the government to conduct a joint review”.

The August violence, however, halted the joint review, it said.

A consultant who has worked with the UN’s Myanmar office including WFP said the agency’s in-country team were already extremely nervous about the report getting too much attention.

The assessment indicated that controversial WFP food aid cuts to internally displaced Rohingya over the previous two years had left people in dire need, said the consultant, who asked to remain anonymous in order to speak freely.

“That was the discussion that was going on behind the scenes and at a senior level,” the source said. “They knew it was potentially damaging. It was all to do with the fact that internally, there was a belief that the decision made to stop feeding some of the [internally displaced people] was actually causing people serious harm, in terms of food security, hunger and even starvation.

“There was a real sense that they had things to hide in their work in Myanmar. Things had not been going to plan there,” the source added.

The WFP country office had also been prioritising its relationship with the government above humanitarian needs, the source added, in an attempt to attract millions in donor funding by showing it had government-approved access to work in other parts of the country.

“It’s a funny thing in the UN. It’s all about how much money you can raise,” the source said. But the access came at the expense of Myanmar’s most hated minority, the Rohingya, a toxic topic to raise with the government, leading to it being side-lined.

Meanwhile, WFP knew the “government wouldn’t have been happy”, the source said, about the report, which found that in one district, Maungdaw, one-third of all homes were experiencing extreme food deprivation.

The report called for further humanitarian assistance for more than 225,000 people, a move the government, which has since blocked aid to Rakhine, would not want.

And alarmingly, the assessment pointed to widespread accounts of security forces preventing Rohingya from reach markets and their crops.

“Restriction of movement was one of the main constraints for the population for accessing food,” it said. “Residents still did not have full access to the forest, agricultural land and fishing grounds due to continuous military presence.”

The Guardian has contacted the Myanmar government for comment.

WFP did not respond directly to questions about whether food aid cuts had left vulnerable people in need or whether it the agency had prioritised good relations with the government over the immediate humanitarian needs of the Rohingya.

“WFP’s purpose in Myanmar is and always has been to address the food and nutrition needs of vulnerable people,” it said.
Rohingya Exodus