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'I feel trapped': Violence fuels fear among Myanmar Muslims

AP  |  Yangon 

For four straight days last month, watched, amazed, as Myanmar's state-run newspapers published special supplements showing Rohingya Muslims accused of being terrorists nearly 250 photos each day. For the 41-year-old Rohingya man, it was a surreal moment. He was born and raised in Yangon, Myanmar's biggest city and far from the western state of Rakhine, where bloody military operations that followed Rohingya militant attacks in August have driven nearly 700,000 Rohingya into refugee camps in "When we first saw those pictures, we started laughing. We wondered: When will it be our turn to have our pictures in the paper?" Muddinn, a teacher, said in an interview in his home. Behind the laughter, though, there is genuine fear. The pictures are the latest in a series of chilling realizations for the Rohingya minority here.

Though Yangon's tree-lined boulevards and weathered colonial architecture seem a world away from the rice paddies and isolated villages of let alone the tarp-walled huts of the teeming refugee camps the government is increasingly linking Rohingya across the country with what it calls a terrorist threat, and others say. Rohingya in describe a sense of rising persecution and hatred, of vanishing freedoms and opportunities, of Buddhist neighbors and friends suddenly more willing to publicly express sympathies with the military's destruction of Rohingya villages in "One day it really could be my picture in the paper," said Like most of the other Rohingya who spoke with The Associated Press, he used his Rohingya name because of safety worries. "I do have anxiety. The government can detain anyone it says is a supporter of terrorism or anyone viewed as a threat to the state." Though Rohingya have always been persecuted in the country, it got much worse after 2012, when violence in killed hundreds and drove about 140,000 people, most of them Rohingya, from their homes to camps. Violence flared again in 2016 and, most dramatically, following the August attacks, when refugees report widespread killing and rape by forces. The AP last month confirmed, through extensive interviews with survivors and time-stamped video, a massacre and at least five mass graves, all previously unreported, in the village of Gu Dar Pyin. Many Rohingya have been in for generations, but, increasingly, the government and media have played up their claim that they're not citizens but "illegal Bengali interlopers" who entered from with the help of corrupt immigration officers. There are non-Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, and they often report rising discrimination, especially those in But generally their situation is less precarious than the Rohingya. denies discriminating against Rohingya and other Muslims.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, February 12 2018. 11:05 IST
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