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May 2024

Episode: KPN 28-05-2024

Kaladan Radio May 28, 2024 1143

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Rakhine State – Rohingyas in the crosshairs

Myanmar’s Rohingya community is once again under threat of attacks and displacement as fighting between a powerful ethnic army and the country’s ruling junta escalates in the western state of Rakhine, according to the UN and aid agencies.

Tens of thousands of Rohingyas are estimated to have fled for safety towards neighbouring Bangladesh since mid-May, and many of those remaining in Rakhine are in dire need of humanitarian aid.

The Arakan Army (AA) claimed control of Buthidaung town earlier in May following fighting during which the ethnic army was accused of singling out Rohingya community members. The AA denies the charges.

The AA is now bearing down on the border town of Maungdaw, also home to a large Rohingya population, that the Myanmar junta will likely attempt to hold, raising the spectre of more serious violence.

“We see clear and present risks of a serious expansion of violence as the battle for neighbouring Maungdaw town has begun – where the military maintains outposts and where a large Rohingya community lives,” a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said.

The Rohingya have faced decades of persecution and, after a 2017 crackdown by the military, nearly one million fled to Bangladesh, where many now live in crowded refugee camps.

Mohammed Taher, a Rohingya refugee in Bangladesh, said he had recently spoken to a friend in Maungdaw, who described the community living in fear.

Recent fighting has forced some 45,000 Rohingyas to flee to an area along the Naf river on the border, according to a UN estimate.

“Faced with mounting losses in Rakhine, the regime has resorted to arming members of the Rohingya ethnic minority to counter the Arakan Army’s advance,” Morgan Michaels of the International Institute for Strategic Studies said in a May report. “The AA has reacted with inflammatory rhetoric and violence directed at the Rohingya.”

Amid the renewed conflict, Rohingya civilians are “increasingly being caught in the middle,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in its latest report last week.

The agency estimates that over 350,000 people are displaced across Rakhine after years of conflict, many of whom do not have access to basic services.

“We are witnessing a near total absence of humanitarian assistance for communities who rely on it,” medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said, adding that hospitals in Buthidaung and Maungdaw were closed.

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