Rohingya Refugee Camp: Searching For Food In The Ditch (Photo – Steve Sandford)
January 12, 2013
Starvation: A War Of Attrition
(part of The Darkness Visible series)
The photo above was taken more than a month ago and was taken in near a Rohingya refugee camp. These Rohingya are living life beyond the villages where their fellow Rohingya live in modern day concentration camps. These Rohingya live where food consist of grass and weeds found alongside dirty streets. They are not allowed to go into the Rakhine villages and purchase food. They are forbidden to use the same water as their Rakhine neighbors. Yet in comparison to the Rohingya still living in the villages, these are the lucky ones.
Checkpoints much like those seen around the ghettos the Nazi’s built during the Holocaust pot mark the area around the refugee camps. Though there are coconuts hanging in the trees outside the camps, though there is rice in the fields that the Rakhine now claim… the Rohingya starve. The barbed wire is a constant reminded that they are considered less than human in their own homeland. The lack of food makes it clear that they are considered of less value than the livestock the Rakhine raise in nearby pastures. This is the life that the Burmese have damned the Rohingya to.
Ali Hassan, a 24 year old Rohingya man told Phuket Wan Travel News, “My babies are starving in front of my eyes. I cannot buy anything now I have no money.”
Ali Hassan had newborn twins at the time. It is impossible to know for sure if his children have survived. It is hard to imagine any child, let alone babies, living a life of starvation. But his story survives. Even if he and his family do not, his story will never perish.
This war, this barbarism that Myanmar carries out, is meant to starve the Rohingya out of existence. The violence that plagued the Arakan state forever lingers in the air. Death hovers behind every shadow. It waits for the Rohingya… with open arms it accepts them of every age, gender, shape, and size. This is a war in as much as it pins one group against the other. Yet in this horrific struggle only one is armed… only one gets to fight… only one survives.
There is an abundance of fish in the seas and waters along the Rakhine coasts. However the Burmese officials have confiscated almost all the fishing equipment the Rohingya once owned. Nets, poles, and hooks… nothing is left to harvest the food that the Rohingya so desperately need.
For now the Rohingya slowly waist away as the little aid that is making it through the blockades is barely enough to keep even a small portion of them alive. It is in this slow starvation that many are turning to the the very people who cause their suffering to offer “a way out”. The Rakhine Nationalities Development Party uses this wide spread starvation to traffic the Rohingya out of Myanmar.
Over the last couple days nearly 700 Rohingya have turned up in human trafficking camps in Thailand. Over 500 Rohingya had to swim ashore in Malaysia after their boat sank 500 km off the coast. All of these Rohingya were trafficked out of the country by the RNDP. And of the RNDP’s trafficking victims… they could easily be considered the lucky ones.
Over half of the Rohingya who are sent out to sea each year die trying to make their way to Malaysia. Almost all Rohingya who are sent into Thailand are sent back to Myanmar having lost everything they had including the bribes that got them out of Burma the first time. These 1,200 Rohingya are lucky just to still be alive and outside of Myanmar.
It is important to note at the close of this post that this tragedy, this genocide, could had been prevented. This horrific case of ethnic cleansing could be immediately stopped. All that is needed is for the outside world to finally wake up. To wake up and start taking action.