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‘Myanmar army surrounded the market and opened fire indiscriminately’

  • Published at 10:06 pm October 18th, 2017
‘Myanmar army surrounded the market and opened fire indiscriminately’
Mohammad Yunus had a big family with seven siblings – three sisters and four brothers – at Poyrabazar village in the Rakhine state's Maungdaw. His sisters were married and lived in different places while his brothers were all busy farming. One night in early September, the Myanmar military swooped in along with local Buddhists and killed hundreds of residents of the village. Yunus’ three brothers — Khairul Amin, Rafikul Alam and Shanchu Alam – were detained by the army and brutally killed. “They stormed our house late at night when we were all asleep. They searched every room in the house and took my brothers. I fled through the back door with my parents,” the 14-year-old recalled. “The army and fundamentalist Buddhist leaders were targeting the young men in the village. They took my brothers and other young men to a jungle with their hands tied and eyes blindfolded. The Buddhists slit their throats and the rest were killed by the army. “Some of the dead were burnt and the rest were buried in mass grave in the remote areas,” he added. Yunus and their parents joined thousands of fellow Rohingya to escape to Bangladesh. A significant number of these refugees are suffering from severe physical and psychological trauma. “I did not realise how true my brother Khairul’s advice to find safety really was, after the crackdown on August 25,” Yunus told the Dhaka Tribune at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar. Peter Bouckaert, Human Rights Watch’s emergencies director and an expert in humanitarian crisis, earlier told the Dhaka Tribune that refugee orphans and unaccompanied children were more vulnerable in Myanmar. “The orphaned refugee children need family support within the chaotic situation in camps. They do not have anyone to talk to about what they have gone through. And they do not even have anyone helping them for their daily activities,” said Bouckaert. He suggested that these children need immediate counselling and access to school in order to return to a semblance of normal life in the camps. Although Myanmar has been blaming the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) for attacking and killing villagers in Rakhine state, a number Rohingya children in Bangladesh described the violence as a military atrocity with the help of local Buddhist extremists. More than a half million Rohingya have been displaced from their ancestral land and forced to seek refuge in Bangladesh after the Myanmar military launched an offensive targeting the ethnic minority in August. Although the army claimed the “security operations” were initiated after ARSA insurgents attacked police posts and an army base, a UN probe said the offensive had started earlier, possibly in early August. The UN has described Myanmar violence as a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”. Thirteen-year-old Khaleda Begum left her village Bolibazar in Maungdaw late September when the military and local Buddhist fundamentalists arrived, killing and raping Rohingya women. She and her parents fled to Bangladesh but two of her sisters were taken by the military. “With the help of local Moghs, the military collected young women and girls from the village. The soldiers took the girls to the jungle. After raping them, the soldiers slit their throats and left them to die,” Khaleda said, describing some of the most horrific details of the Myanmar army’s activities. Eleven-year-old Roshid Ullah from Zambonia village in Maungdaw now begs at the refugee camp. “That night, the sound of gunshots and the screams of people woke us up. We tried to get out, but my father realised we were locked in from the outside. They set our house on fire. My parents broke a window and threw me out to save me,” Roshid said. He walked for three days to reach Bangladesh. “When we arrived at the border, there were thousands of people. For the three long days, we walked though mountains, rivers and canals without any food.” Roshid does not know if his parents were alive. “In Myanmar, I had a happy life with my parents. They loved me so much and I never felt this alone. I remember my mother every night and I cannot forget what happened that night,” he told the Dhaka Tribune. Sixteen-year-old Mohammad Anwar was shot in the arm. Hailing from Thom Bazar in Buthidaung, he said: “It was a Friday morning in late August and I went to the Thom Bazar, a market of Muslim traders where I used to work at a shop. It was a sunny day and people were busy when suddenly several military vehicles showed up and cordoned off the market. “They opened fired indiscriminately. Many people were killed on the spot or injured. I hid behind a wall but got shot the arm,” he told the Dhaka Tribune.