Rohingya Refugees Say Myanmar Is Now Using Starvation as a 'Weapon'
Doctors say the refugees who flee Myanmar arrive in Bangladesh "severely malnourished."
Myanmar may have blocked journalists and international analysts from investigating conditions inside Rakhine state — once home to hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims — but signs of the crisis underway there are evident in the emaciated, malnourished bodies of each Rohingya refugee who escapes, according to a report released Thursday by the Associated Press.
In reports by the AP and Amnesty International, Rohingya refugees who recently arrived at camps in nearby Bangladesh say soldiers in Myanmar use food deprivation as a "weapon" and try to starve Rohingya by commandeering their crops and livestock.
Doctors working at refugee camps in Bangladesh say many refugees, especially women and children, experience “unbelievable” levels of malnutrition when they first arrive at the camps, the AP reports.
“They are definitely coming in starving,” Dr. Ismail Mehr, a physician who has worked in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, told the AP. “We saw the vitamin deficiencies in the children and the adults. We saw ... severely malnourished people who are basically skin and bones. It looked like the pictures from the Nazi camps.”
Since August 2017, almost 700,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh. Accounts of mass graves, indiscriminate violence, and systematic rape have compelled the United Nations to condemn the “hallmarks of genocide" inside Myanmar.
But condemnation by the international community has not stopped Myanmar from ramping up their purge against the Rohingya, who they have long scapegoated and refused to recognize as citizens, the AP, al-Jazeera, and various other news agencies report.
In addition to the AP's reporting, Amnesty International says Myanmar’s government and powerful security forces are determined to expel — or kill — any Rohingya who remains.
"Deliberate actions by the Myanmar authorities, including denial of access to rice fields and markets as well as restrictions on aid access, are in effect starving out many Rohingya who have tried to remain in their villages," Amnesty International said in a statement.
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Rohingya refugees interviewed by Amnesty International said that soldiers stole their harvests, gave the crops and livestock to non-Rohingya neighbors, and blocked Rohingya from access to rice paddies and other food sources.
The shriveled limbs of children and the protruding rib cages of men and women who flee Myanmar reinforce the organization’s assertion.
“Sometimes we stayed hungry for a day, two days, even five days,” Mohammad Ilyas, a Rohingya refugee who recently fled Myanmar, told the AP. “The Myanmar government doesn’t want a single Muslim to remain there. They want to erase us completely.”