• Friday, Sep 20, 2019
  • Last Update : 01:23 am

'We keep our frustration inside because we cannot speak out'

  • Published at 12:17 am August 25th, 2019
Myanmar-Rohingya issue
File photo: Rohingya refugees gather at a market inside a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, March 7, 2019 Reuters

Currently, some 128,000 Rohingya and other Muslims are forcibly detained in camps or camp-like settings in Central Rakhine

Suleiman is a Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) watchman living in NgetChaung village in central Rakhine State. He and 9,000 other Rohingya Muslims are forcibly confined to the village and the adjacent internment camp, with poor living conditions and very limited access to basic services. 

The restrictions on movement for the Rohingya in central Rakhine State followed outbreaks of violence between the Rohingya and other Rakhine communities in 2012. 

Currently, some 128,000 Rohingya and other Muslims are forcibly detained in camps or camp-like settings in Central Rakhine. 

Before restrictions were imposed, Suleiman was a teacher and travelled to different towns and cities to provide English and Burmese classes in mosques.

Born and brought up in NgetChaung village, Suleiman has eight children. He says the MSF arrived in NgetChaung just seven days after the crisis in 2012.

“I went to Sittwe for my education. When I was 15, I had no money to continue my studies. So, I came home and began to make a living as a teacher, running classes in English and Burmese for the children and adults coming to the mosque,” Suleiman said.

“I was in another village, when the crisis began in 2012 and I came home as things were tense,” he added. 

Discussing the night his village was attacked, Suleiman said: “One night at about 2am, we saw some unknown people and fearing trouble, we ran for our lives. When we found a place to hide, we looked back and saw that our village was on fire. In the morning, we went there only to see that our houses and domestic animals were burnt to ashes.  A policeman came, inspected the place, and went back.

“Some soldiers who came to speak to us told us that we could stay and live here but that we couldn’t go anywhere else. For a long time, we lived in tents. It took almost two years to rebuild everything,” he added.

“We keep our frustration inside because we cannot speak out. There are no opportunities for employment; there is little trade, we can only buy fish or prawns and sometimes people from nearby Rakhine villages come and sell us food,” he added.

“People here are frustrated as they cannot go anywhere or do anything. There are tensions and sometimes there is aggression and even sexual violence between communities. The Rohingya are like other ethnicities in Myanmar: we just want freedom to have our own livelihoods and to sleep at night without worrying,” Suleiman said.