Press TV correspondent Johnny Miller goes to Myanmar to cover the plight of Rohingya Muslim who are according to the UN one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.
TIME CODE: 00:00_05:00
Narration: In September, 2017, over the space of a month, 600 000 Rohingya’s fled their homes in neighbouring Myanmar to come here.
For over one hundred kilometres along the Teknaf Highway in the Southern tip of Bangladesh, thousands upon thousands of men, women and children are looking for a new home, a new future. And food, shelter and clothing. The sheer scale of human suffering never seems to stop. This is a historic movement of people.
But at least they are alive. From these very camps, across the Naf River, can be seen Muangdaw province, Myanmar, their former home, where for much of that September, smoke plumes rose from the jungle. The tell tale signs of the horror that has made this tragedy into one of the most shocking crimes of this century so far.
For Myanmar’s leader and Nobel peace prize winner, Aung Sun SuuKyi, it was the Rohingya’s themselves, who were to blame.
SOUNDBITE [English] Aung Sun SuuKyi, State Counsellor of Myanmar:“On the 25rd of August, 30 police outposts as well as the regimental headquarters in Dang DangZa village were attacked by armed groups. Consequent to these attacks, the government declared the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army and its supporters responsible for acts of terrorism as a terrorist group in accordance with the counter terrorism law section 6, sub section 5.”
Narration: The Myanmar government have banned Journalists from entering Muangdaw province. So little footage of what happened has come to light. Snap shots only. The burning villages, the dead. The mass of people on the move. The government said their’clearance operation’, was in response to a terror attack. Half a million people have paid the price. And in these camps everyone has a story to tell.
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Nur Khanga, Refugee: “During the night, around 3AM, the military came to surround our village.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Send Ara, Refugee:“We were resting in our house when the military surrounded the whole area. We were just resting. Then the gunfire started.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Sala Mat, Refugee: “They started shooting at us at 8am in the morning. We waited inside as the heavy gunfire was going on. All my neighbours hid themselves in their houses. From the south side they started launching rockets to burn the houses.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Nur Baher, Refugee: “They took all the men out of the houses. They hit them with their guns and took them away. The women were taken away. And we were put face down on the ground. We were crying a lot. They had planted mines in the rice fields. We thought they were going to kill us all.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Send Ara, Refugee: “We fled to the forest in order to hide. As I was running al bullet hit my arm and I fell to the ground. I held the wound and began running again into the forest.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Sala Mat, Refugee: “We were running. My brother was with me. Then a bullet hit him. He was screaming a lot as I looked back. There was so much gunfire when we arrived in the forest. And we hid. When the gunfire stopped I went back. It was then that I saw my brothers body was mutilated.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Nur Baher, Refugee: “As people were taken away to be killed, more villagers came out to see what was going on. That’s when my son was shot and killed. Children were thrown onto the fire. And they butchered many old people. Many young boys were killed in the rice fields.”
TIME CODE: 00:05 _10:00
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Senu Ara, Refugee: “My husband was killed. He was stabbed many times. And his body was mutilated. And one of my youngest kids was killed in the fire. I don’t have any relatives here. I don’t even have five Taka to buy medicine. Even though I am so sick. I can’t talk to you because I’m shaking with fever.”
Narration: Some of the stories the refugee tell can seem too hard to believe at first. Until you come here, to Cox’s Bazar hospital and see the evidence for yourself.This is Mohammed Haresh. He’s 13 months old. And his torso is covered in severe burns.
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Khurshida Bezum, Refugee: “The military threw bombs on our roof. It was burning. My baby was in the house. I have five kids. Another four were able to get out in time.”
Narration: But Mohammed wasn’t so lucky. Eventually, his father was able to pluck him from the flames. In this ward, the terrifying ordeal the Rohingya’s have faced over the last few weeks is laid bare. This boy was shot as the army fired indiscriminately into their village. This girl, burnt before scrambling over a fence fleeing the flames. This boy injured as he leapt from a boat crossing into Bangladesh.
SOUNDBITE [English] Dr Shaheen Chowdury, Resident Medical Officer, Sadar Hospital: “Most of them are gunshot injuries. About 110. These gunshot injuries have other associated injuries like soft tissue trauma, multiple fractures and lascerations etc. Some fractures according to their statements that they have been thrown away by the military.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Rashida Towava, Refugee: “The military and Buddhist started burning our house when I was sleeping, after coming home from school at 10 am. My mother was at work in another house so she wasn’t at home. I then felt a burning pain in my leg and I knew it was because of fire. I fled from the house. I was trying to climb a wall in the yard but the pain from the burn was unbearable.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Ravi Alaam, Refugee: “The military hid themselves in the rice fields. I went with my wife to the mosque to pray, while the kids were sleeping. When we finished prayers, we came out of the mosque and the gunfire started. There were soldiers everywhere. Why do Muslims stay in a Buddhist country? You are not citizens! You are not Rohingya! They were shouting that as they were firing.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Imaan Hussein, Refugee: “I went to school to get my kids when I heard the gunfire. I brought the kids to my home. They fired and begun burning houses. We decided to move to another place with the kids and ran through the rice fields. Then the bullet hit my leg.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Ravi Alaam, Refugee: “My son was coming out of school he dropped the holy Quran. I thought he was dead because his eyes were closed. A bullet went in one side and out the other.”
Narration: The gunshots, the systematic burning, the terror, as the United Nations points out, this bares all the hallmarks of “textbook ethnic cleansing.”The evidence against Aung Sun SuuKyi and the Myanmarese army, of crimes against humanity, satellite images of towns no more, hundreds of thousands of witness testimonies, began to mount as soon as the crisis commenced.
SOUNDBITE [English]Thomas Hunecke, Teamleader OHCHR Rapid Response Mission to Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh:“The credible information we gathered indicates that the destruction of Rohingya villages in northern Rahkine State and other human rights violations committed in the aftermath of 25 august attacks were executed in a well-organized, coordinated and systematic manner. The information reveals that these human rights violations were committed against the Rohingya population in northern Rahkine in Myanmar by the Myanmar security forces often in concert with armed Rakhine Buddhists individuals.”
TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00
SOUNDBITE [English] Aung Sun SuuKyi, State Counsellor of Myanmar:“We invite you to join us, to talk to us, to discuss with us, to go to with us to the trouble areas where we can guarantee your security. Because we don’t want the added problems if anything happening to any of you. We would like you to join us there, see for yourself what is happening. And think for yourself, what can we do to remove these problems. And also I want you to take special care to stuffy the peaceful areas. How have they managed they the peace?”
Narration: We decided to take Aung Sun SuuKyi up on her offer by flying to the area ourselves.
On first impression, Sittwe is a quiet, peaceful town. But if you look closely you can see tell tale signs of ethnic cleansing. Rohingya’s were first expunged from this town in 2012.
The central Mosque, now boarded up, disused and overgrown. And here, empty fields in the centre of town. Five years ago, this was a bustling Rohingya neighbourhood. Now, nothing, except for some new houses that are beginning to go up. They are for Rakhine Buddhists only. This is what a successful campaign of ethnic cleansing looks like.
On the outskirts of town, is a sight that the tourists don’t get to see. Rohingya’s, that once called this town home, now languish in camps. Most of them were driven there back in 2012. We’ve been told there is no way for journalists to get in. They are too heavily guarded by the military. But by using back roads and finding a driver brave enough to take us, we were able to make it into one of the Rohingya villages on the outskirts of Sittwe.
Where, at least there is a mirage of freedom and prosperity. But once again, look closely and ask some questions and a very different reality becomes clear.
The village is poor. The public spaces flooded, risking disease. Roots foraged from the jungle. And yet, amongst the squalor, a bonanza of cows, stolen from or left behind by Rohingya’s fleeing the atrocities further north, into the hands of Rakhine traders and sold onto these Rohingyas down south.
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Woman, Refugee: “There are no words to describe what it is like living here. We have little food and we are scared every day.”
Narration: Ever since communal violence began five years ago, these Rohingyas have been stuck in this village and the surrounding fields. If they leave they risk being arrested of attacked by the military or Rakhine villagers. It is in effect a prison.
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Man, Refugee: “These used to be our rice fields. But the army came and looted our village and took the fields for themselves. Now we have to rent the fields from them. You see those trees over there? That's as far as we are allowed to go.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Man, Refugee: “And over there! That's a Rakhine village.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Man, Refugee: “Yes, we are very scared. We post a lookout every night.”
Narration: This village is as good as it gets for Rohingyas in Myanmar. The rest are either fleeing their burnt out homes or languishing in camps. Outside the village chief’s home, the Myanmar flag flies in a desperate attempt to prove their loyalty. ShamiUdin welcomes us into his home. He’s received direct threats from the army.
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Shamy Udin, Refugee: “The military tells us that if we don't do as they say, the same thing will happen to us, as is happening further north. People don't sleep at night because we are surrounded by Rakhine villages.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Aung Sun SuuKyi, State Counsellor of Myanmar:“It is very well known that the great majority of Muslims living in Rakhine State have not joined the exodus. More than 50% of the villages are intact. They are as they were, before the attacks took place and we would like to know why. This is what I think we have to work towards, not just looking at the areas where there are problems but also at the areas where there are no problems. Why have we been able to avoid these problems in certain areas?”
TIME CODE: 15:00_20:00
Narration: Back in Sittwe Town, for the Rakhine population, life goes on as normal. Local people seem completely ambivalent to the suffering of their former neighbours nearby. There are no protests. No calls for the ethnic cleansing to stop. It’s as if nothing ever happened at all.
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Send Aram, Refugee: “Those who had been shot in the leg and couldn’t walk were butchered. But I was shot in the hand so I was able to walk. Whoever was able to walk was ok. Those who couldn’t would be killed.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Nur Khanga Refugee: “The men surrounded the women. They started beating the women. Some were stripped naked. They humiliated us so much and we couldn’t find our daughters. There were many atrocities done to our women.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Jamila Khatum Refugee: “I was with my sister and a bullet entered one side of her head and came out of the other. I got hit by a bullet and fell down in the rice field. They then pulled out my nose ring and took my watch. My uncle was also killed.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Sala Mat Refugee: “I covered his body with cloth. I buried him and left him to God. When my parents died, my brother was a baby. My parents asked me to please make my brother educated. He passed grade nine. I feel the world has been broken.”
SOUNDBITE [Italian] Pope: “Sad news reached us about the religious persecutions against our Rohingya brothers. I would like to express all my closeness to them and let us all ask the Lord to save them and to inspire men and women of good will to help them, to give them full rights. Let's pray for the Rohingya brothers.”
Narration: During September, 2017 when the ethnic cleansing was at it’s worst, International criticism flooded in from across the world. And protestors hit the streets in many countries.
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Yangon, Refugee: “But here in the capital of Myanmar, there are no protests. Instead overwhelming support for what the Government calls clearance operations.”
Narration: At a café, we spoke to some local people.
VOX POPS [Local Language] Rohingyas People: “It’s good. If we don’t do it now there will be bigger problems in the future because their population is increasing. And they will soon ask for another area to live. If we do not do this “clearance operation” now the Myanmar people will disappear from this land.”
“We don’t have Rohingyas. Only Bengalis.”
“Their population is going up too much. In Bangladesh the population is very high. So most of them come from Bangladesh to Myanmar across the border.”
Narration: These views are common place in Yangon, there is very little deviation. And very hard to find anyone who has any sympathy for the Rohinygas.
VOX POPS [Local Language]: “There are places where they burnt down their own homes. We cannot definitely say that government burnt down their homes.”
“MY QUESTION: ll the satellite images of the burnt out villages, who burnt those down?”
I think Myanmar people don’t want to burn down the houses.
-So who burnt them down?
- Why would they do that?
They want to internationalise the problem. International support.”
Narration: At the newspaper stand it isn’t hard to see why these views are common place. Story after story, blaming the Rohingya’s for the violence. There is little press freedom in Myanmar. One of the few people unafraid to think differently is human rights advocate Moe Thawy. We met him at his office in Yangon.
SOUNDBITE [English] Moe Thawy, Human Rights Activist: “The problem is in those areas, there was no freedom of the media, so that we are getting in the news only from the government side and mainly from the military. After the government defined them as a terrorist group everyone’s opinion changed. Everyone things they are the real terrorists.”
TIME CODE: 20:00_25:00
Narration: These images were promoted as proof by the government that Rohingyas were burning down their own homes. It turns out that the women seen here wasn’t a Rohingya at all and had merely put a sheet on her head to make her look like a Muslim.
And social media has played it’s part with images like this, purporting to be of Rohingya terrorists. It’s actually a photo taken during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
SOUNDBITE [English] Moe Thawy, Human Rights Activist: “I would say we still have this islamophobia in the country. The military regime is using that islamophobia throughout history to divide the people. There was also rumours that there will be jihad by the Muslims and there will be terrorist attacks in Mandalay and Yangon and other cities, so people are really scared. And then more and more hatred between the different communities.”
Narration: Portraits of the woman ultimately responsible, Aung Sun SuuTyi are available all across Yangon for tourists to buy. Although her image, internationally may never recover from the accusations now hanging over her government. But for her, it’s not the international community who are going to keep her in power.
VOX POPS [Local Language]: “She cannot support them. And if she does support them, we cannot support her. Not only Aung Sun SuuKyi, anyone who support them, we won’t support.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Moe Thawy, Human Rights Activist: “If she is going to say something supporting the Rohingya, it is really dangerous for her political image. Even if there are those kind of obstacles or pressure, sometimes the leader like her needs to say the right things.”
Narration: The Rohingya’s are so unpopular in Myanmar, that Aung Sun SuuKyi, faces a dilemma, to continue defending her government’s crimes against humanity or risk losing the support of her own electorate.
SOUNDBITE [English] Moe Thawy, Human Rights Activist: “- It seems the military could do anything right now and the people would be ok with it? And that’s what scary, there seems to be no forces in Myanmar that can stop what is happening.
No, we cannot. It is really complicated, risky. Even if I said in the Burmese military, if I used the term genocide or asked the military to stop the clearance operation I would be the traitor.”
Narration: Not far from Moe’s office, in a typical downtown side street is the only Rohingya political party in the country. Although they are careful not to use the term Rohingya in fear of reprisals.I asked the group’s leader about the terrorist attack the Rohingya Arakan Salvation Army allegedly conducted against the police and army check points.
SOUNDBITE [English] Kway Min, Chairman of Democracy and Human Rights Party: “I think almost all Rohingya think, they are not working for Rohingyas. They are utilitsed by some vested interest group to make the area serious, critical and finally to become a military area there.
- But its understandable if many of them take up weapons isn’t it?
A lot of groups are thinking about taking up arms to fight for their rights but it is not time, it think, they are also not fully prepared. To make some kind of armed struggle you need a lot of potential support.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Moe Thawy, Human Rights Activist: “I want my leader to say ok, this is a terrorist attack but we have to be very careful not to effect any innocent civilians. This is what a leader has to say.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Kway Min, Refugee: “The Myanmar Government wants to get rid of the Rohingyas from this land.”
Narration: Scared, yet relieved. They’re over the worst of it. Rohingya’s making the final leg of their journey across the Nafriver to Bangladesh. Their homes have been burnt down, many have witnessed massacres first hand. The boats are overcrowded and many have drowned. Whats more, the ferrymen charge extortionate rates eager to make good money while the ethnic cleansing lasts. Upon landing, it’s a struggle. Food must be found, and shelter.
TIME CODE: 25:00_30:00
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Nur Baher, Refugee: “We were rushing from village to village. The women were‘t stopped from going but out husbands were taken away and killed. When we left at sunset we returned to find many dead bodies. They had piled the bodies into a mass grave.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Abdul Haque, Refugee: “When we entered the jungle, we didn’t know what to do. Since the military told us we were Bengali, we decided to come here, to Bangladesh, to protest ourselves. On the way to the border, the army shot at us. But we were lucky. We hid ourselves under the water, with our eyes just above the water line, so that we could see army positions.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Ravi Alaam, Refugee: “We stopped the bleeding. And I carried him, leaving all our belongings. When we got to the border, because we had nothing, we were shaking with the cold in the rain. We passed three days at the border with no food.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Imaan Hussein, Refugee: “We were starving for many days. They carried me with bamboo and blankets. We got to the beach where there were lots of people and dead bodies.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Nur Baher, Refugee: “When they told us we couldn’t stay we went from one place to another. We were starving for three days. We crossed many mountains to get here.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Imaan Hussein, Refugee: “After arriving at the border we got a boat in the afternoon. We agreed to pay five thousand Taka per person. Then we arrived in Bangladesh.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Nur Khanga, Refugee: “Maybe it is illegal to cross at daytime, so we hid. They don’t take less than One hundred thousand Taka. Those who can pay can cross. Otherwise they cannot. The ones who are left are not allowed to go. They stay.
My father and brothers were left behind. They could not afford to take the boat. I have a lot of brothers and sisters.
So they stayed in the village where the houses are not yet burnt. If they burnt them what can they do? They have no other options. They are not able to come because they don’t have money.”
Narration: Nur shows us her ID card and photos of her family taken by the authorities. Evidence, she says, that she is a Rohingya and was born in Myanmar. Many Rohingya’s have such evidence. But it doesn’t seem to be enough.
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Kway Min, Refugee: “They have been Burmese full citizens in British time, parliamentary period, in so called revolutionary council period and even in 2010 elections, they were allowed to vote and stand for elections, so these people feel themselves to be full citizens of Myanamar.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Moe Thawy, Human Rights Activist: “Most of those people were born in this land so they should be protected by this country and they should be able to be involved in this countries affairs.”
Narration: In order to find some wisdom and common sense, I visitied a temple in the capital.
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Ashin Kumara, Buddhist Monk: “They are Bengali’s, living in Myanmar. Bengali’s are Bengali’s. There are no Rohingya. I would like to meet with those who are using the term Rohingya. The Rohingya’s don’t exist. They don’t exist.
I asked the Monk whether this opinion justified the violence against them.
Most of the places that are burnt, they burnt the houses themselves. This is how we can see, they do not respect the law. That’s why these things are happening.
They already had plans and strategies. They burnt their houses themselves and ran. They had a plan. And went through their strategy step by step, so that the international media would help them.”
TIME CODE: 30:00_35:00
Narration: Ashin Kumara is part of a new breed of nationalist monks gaining increasing influence throughout Buddhist countries. The most famous is Wirathu, otherwise known as the Buddhist Bin Laden. Who speaks proudly of turning Myanmarese against the Rohingyas.
SOUNDBITE [English] Moe Thawy, Human Rights Activist: “Actually I don’t agree with this term, ‘nationalist Buddhist’ because in Buddhism there is no race or colour or whatever, we don’t ask what is your nationality or what is your sex or gender of whatever, but some of those bad monks are using the name of the Buddha to incite hatred. So I say they are not Buddhists.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Ashin Kumara, Buddhist Monk: “Once, Indonesia was a Buddhist country. Now it has become a Muslim country.
Same with Malaysia. And India? The Buddha was born there. Today Buddhism is nothing there, zero.
In Rakhine State, the Muslim population has increased too much.
English people are very clean when they eat and drink.
They are like that. They stay clean, take a bath, eat and drink cleanly. They are like that. But they (Rohingya’s) are not like that.
Is it not like that? They are not like that.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Ravi Alaam, Refugee: “I don’t know if they were aiming or firing randomly. Even eighty year old men were killed. They killed us because they hate us. They don’t want out population to increase. If we say we’re Rohingya, they just say that there are no Rohingyas. “There are no Rohingyas in our country. They simply want to kill us.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Nur Baher, Refugee:“They said they are killing us because the terrorists attacked their police post. They said there are terrorists here. But we have never seen them. They accused us of providing them with food and shelter.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Sala Mat, Refugee: “You are not part of our country! We are citizens of Bangladesh. You are Bengali!” They were shouting at us. Are we Bengali? We were born in Myanmar. Our parents gave birth to us there. Then they tell us saying we are not citizens of this country. “You are not Rohinga. You are not citizens. You are citizen of Bangladesh. Why are we citizen of Bangladesh? We were born there. Then they started shooting their gunds and firing their rockets. And burning our homes.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Sick Woman: “I don't know why they are killing us. “You are not Rohingya! We are citizens of Myanmar. So you go away!” They said. Those who can’t stand, were butchered. Those who can flee, come here.”
Narration: Islamaphobia, Nationalism, Religion. But the real reasons for the ethnic cleansing are more opaque.
It’s easy to think of Myanmar as one people under one nation but in reality there are over sixty unique ethnic groups within it’s borders. Burma, is how the country is still known by many. But the Bamar people only make up around 65% of the population.
Many of the other groups, have had and continue to have thriving independence movements.
In the last thirty years alone, multiple conflicts resulting from these independence movements have sprung up across the country resulting in what many label as the world’s longest running civil war. The most prominent conflict continues in Kachin State to this day.
The Rakhine people are also ethnically unique. And many Rakhines desire an independent State. Better then, the theory goes, for the Myanmar army to win Rakhine support by helping them get rid of the Rohingya’s.
The threat, real or otherwise of Islamic terrorism also helps to keep the country united.
Without doubt, this plays a major role in the government’s thinking. The other reason, is money.
Rakhine State like much of formerly communist Myanmar has been relatively untouched by mining and corporate agriculture. But this is changing. Foreign companies are coming in and the Myanmar government has already sold off land formerly owned by Rohingyas. There are also potential oil and gas reserves.
The country is nestled between the world’s two most populous states, China and India both of which are thirsty for resources.
TIME CODE: 35:00_40:00
SOUNDBITE [English] Kway Min, Human Right Activist: “I have very recently heard that Myanmar has sold on an area about 100 square miles. They sold off Muandaw where uranium is sold. A Chinese company will come. Titanium as well as uranium is there.”
Narration: The West too is keen to get in on the act. When former US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton visited Myanmar she took with her representatives some of the biggest American corporations. When former British Prime Minister visited he did the same with British companies. Criticize Myanmar too heavily and they will look elsewhere for their trade partners.For the Rohingyas, it simply isn’t in any powerful nations financial or strategic interest to help.
For these reasons, the Myanmar military has been able to carry out the successful ethnic cleansing of over half a million people and the mass murder and rape of untold numbers in full view of the world and nothing has been done to stop them.
When it rains in Bangladesh it pours. And it was pouring for most of week we spent in the camps. The rain makes life even more difficult for newly arrived refugees. As if everything wasn’t hard enough. And the rainy season was supposed to have ended weeks ago.
For dozens of miles up the Teknaf highway, the sheer numbers, men, women and children, are staggering.
When the rain stops, food and clothing is handed out. So far, only the Bangladeshi government has helped.
SOUNDBITE [English] Shamsul Alam, Senior Assistant Commissioner, Cox’s Bazar: “We need food from abroad because the people are distributing food for temporary relief. It will not last long. Obviously we don’t have enough resources to help people more than 700 000.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Duniya Aslam Khan, Spokesperson for the UN Refugee Agency:“The situation is very fluid and the flow of new arrivals hasn't stopped yet. So it's been two months, estimated 589,000 people are already there, but new refugees are arriving. That's why it has become now the biggest refugee crisis of recent years. A lot is being done, but the needs are enormous on ground.
It is not that we are not responding to the needs of people, it is just the scale and the speed of this whole crisis is just so unprecedented. That is why we are now going into this pledging conference to ask for more support.”
Narration: As usual, millions in aid has been promised but its unclear how much will get through. For the most part the Rohingyas will most likely have to fend for themselves with rudamentory support from the Bangaldeshi government and the United Nations. Whole tent and bamboo cities have now been added to the map in Southern Bangladesh. They now resemble refugee camps. But in a matter of months or years, they may have developed enough to be mistaken for towns and cities themselves.
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Worker: “The weather is very hot. We’ve been here for three days and we haven’t had much food. There will be four families on this small patch of land. In the four families there are sixteen people. Food or no food, we have to finish this house first. I don’t like it but what can we do?”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Hospital Woman: “What can we do about going back? There are only two of us left in our family. Why should we go back again? They’ve killed before, they’ll kill again. We will stay here for as long as they want us to. We are only simple people. We can’t decide the actions of those above us. Whatever happens we will go wherever we need to go.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Nur Baher, Refugee: “We cried until out eyes were dry. We can never go back to Myanmar. Don’t make us go bak. They will kill us again.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Worker: “Will Burma take us? That is the question. How can we go? Leaving my country , I feel my son has died. I miss my country a lot. What can I do?”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Nur Khanga, Refugee: “If there is peace back in Myanmar, then we will go back. We are sad because we left behind our properties and all our possessions.”
TIME CODE: 40:00_45:00
SOUNDBITE [English] Thomas Hunecke, Teamleader OHCHR Rapid Response Mission to Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh: “The credible information collected also indicated that the Myanmar security forces purposely destroyed the property of the Rohingya population, scorched their dwellings and entire villages in Northern Rahkine state, not only to drive the population out in droves but also to prevent the fleeing Rohingya victims from returning to their homes. The destruction by the Tatmadaw of houses, fields, food stocks, crops, live stocks and even trees rendered the possibility of the Rohingya returning to a normal life and livelihoods in the future in Northern Rakhine almost impossible”.
Narration: A registration centre for Rohingya’s. After getting settled, they are encouraged to register with the Bangladeshi authorities in order to receive food and other essentials.
Stripped of their identity in Myanmar, finally, a welcome sight, as names, photos and fingerprints are taken. They are being treated as human beings once more.
But we soon find out, there’s a problem. Earlier in the day, cards we’re being issued that clearly stated their identity as Rohingya. Now, the word Rohingya has been dropped. And they’re angry.
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Rohingyas man: “We want our identity to be recognised as Rohingyas. In Myanmar they stole our identity. They killed us and burnt our homes. All we want is to be recognised as Rohingyas.”
Narration: And all of a sudden, the Rohingya’s rebel. Men and boys collect up their identity cards and return to the registration centre. After a stand off with the army who refuse to take back the cards, the refugees stand firm with an act of defiance.
SOUNDBITE [English] Mahbubor Khan, Deputy Project Director: “We have delivered the card. It is their responsibility to keep it. It is the governments policy that they have this card. They must. And if are not in possessed, then they will be responsible for this.”
Narration: The day started by registering refugees, now it’s suddenly turned tense. After, some threatening overtones by the army, the refugees disperse. Crucially, without their cards, for which they have waited much of the day in line for.
Stripped of their identities, their villages burnt, families members massacred. Now a new saga begins for the Rohingyas in another land. And still the world seems unsure what to do with them. Or even what to call them.
Back in Rakhine State, an aparteid system has been put in place. Rakhine Buddhists continue to live normal lives. While out in the countryside, half a million Rohingya’s struggle in squalled camps. Or in villages like this, fearing for their lives every day. They have no citizen rights and are at the mercy of the police and Rakhine villagers. And they know all about the horror that has descended onto their people not far to the north.
During the editing of this film Contacts in the camps have sent me numerous stories and photos of the continuing crimes committed against Rohingyas in the region.
This is AnsarMiya, he was sixteen. Because the roads are blocked for Rohingyas, he tried to sail to Sittwe from one of the camps in order to receive medical treatment. The boat capsized. On the boat with him were Muhammed and Ziyaul Hussein.
By making life so hard for the Rohingya’s still in Rakhine State the Myanmar government is trying to force Rohngya’s to leave of their own accord. Boats to Bangladesh or to Thailand and then on to the Muslim country of Malaysia.
In echoes of the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, at least several hundred have drowned over the past five years attempting to flee. More will drown soon. Babies are particularly susceptible to being pulled down by the force of the water.
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Shami Udin, Village Chief: “Before 2012, it was a very good time. But we can’t move freely like before. We can’t run our businesses like before. There is always danger if we leave the village. The police are everywhere. They have a camp near here. We can’t set up fishing nets. We have only have fourteen farmers in our village. The rest are all fishermen. Everyone was able to survive easily before, now it has become very difficult.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Abdul Haque: “Since the violence in 2012, we are being oppressed so much by Rakhine people in Myanmar.
It never stopped. Until now, when they began shooting us.”
TIME CODE: 45:00_49:13
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Nur Baher: “Before this all happened, they committed many atrocities in Muangdaw. Important local people were being taken away from the street. Arabic teachers and learned people were being taken away. They (military/police) are shaving beard and moustache of the people. After that, teenagers are being taken away.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Sala Mat: “They didn’t allow us to go to the market often. If we bought something they would take it from us. When our daughters went to the market they would take their money or rape them. If they saw an attractive girl the military would rape them. The Rakhine villagers would to the same.”
SOUNDBITE [Local Language] Village Chief: “Do you think your village will be burnt down?
Yes I think it will. Our people have nowhere to go.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Kway Min, Human Right Activist: “Do you think the Myanmar government is going to stop before all the Rohingyas have left the country?I don’t see any official order or announcement that can stop the exodus of these people.”
Narration: At the village mosque, Rohingya children learn the Quran. They are blissfully unaware of the hellfire that may soon descend on their village. For the last five years the warning signs that the Myanmar government was gearing up for their campaign of slaughter was clear for the world to read. Yet nothing was done. It is now clear that the half a million Rohingya’s still living in the country. Men, women and children, are under serious threat of being massacred in the coming months or years. Yet still the world is doing next to nothing to stop it.
SOUNDBITE [English] Aung San Suu Kyi,State Counsellor of Myanmar: “ltimately our aim should be to create a world, free from the displaced, the homeless and the hopeless. A world in which each and every corner where the inhabitants will have the capacity to live in peace. Every thought, every word that adds to the positive and the wholesome is a contribution to peace. Each and every one of us is capable of making such a contribution. Let us join hands to create and peaceful world where we can sleep in peace and wake in happiness.”
Narration: Aung Sun Suu Kyi has already had many awards rescinded. This seems to be the only action taken so far.
Aung Sun SuuKyi once said, “Fear of losing power, corrupts those who wields it. She may do well to remember her own words. If not she may turn out to be known as the politician of the worst kind. One who cares more about power than the lives of her own electorate.
SOUNDBITE [English] Aung San Suu Kyi,State Counsellor of Myanmar: “We have never been soft on human rights in this country. Our government has emerged as a body committed to the defence of human rights. Not of any particular community’s rights but of the rights of all human beings within the border of country.”