Friday 29 April 2016

Myanmar nationalists protest US use of 'Rohingya'

Source aa, 28 April

Demonstrators gather outside US embassy to protest its use of 'Rohingya' in statement on Rakhine State situation

Myanmar nationalists protest US use of 'Rohingya'

Around 500 Buddhist nationalists have staged an unauthorized demonstration outside the U.S embassy in Yangon to protest the use of the term "Rohingya" to describe the country's stateless and persecuted Muslim minority.

Many such nationalists refuse to even recognize the term, instead referring to the Muslim ethnic group as "Bengali" which suggests they are illegal immigrants from neighboring country Bangladesh.

Win Zaw Zaw Latt, from the Yangon-based Myanmar National Network, told Anadolu Agency prior to Thursday's demonstration in the country's commercial capital that it had been organized to tell the U.S. embassy to respect the government and people of Myanmar.

"It is already clear that there is no such ethnicity as Rohingya in our country," he claimed. "We demand the U.S. as well as western countries and the EU to stop using the term Rohingya."

The embassy used the term in a recent statement to illustrate its concerns about the situation in western Rakhine State, where communal violence between ethnic Buddhists and Muslims in 2013 left 57 Muslims and 31 Buddhists dead, around 100,000 people displaced in camps and more than 2,500 houses burned -- most of which belonged to Rohingya.

Over 100 police were deployed to quell protesters outside the embassy Thursday which had been barricaded with wire fences earlier in the day.

The protesters were joined by around 50 monks from Buddhist nationalist association Ma Ba Tha.

A senior police officer called the demonstration unauthorized, and said action would be taken against organizers.

Following the demonstration, Pamaukkha - a prominent Ma Ba Tha monk in Yangon -- offered his condolences to a group he referred to as "Bengali" who lost their lives April 19 when their boat capsized off western Rakhine State.

He used the opportunity, however, to underline his stance.

"International diplomats should care using such controversial terms [as Rohingya]," he told Anadolu Agency. "They are Bengali – illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. We don't have a Rohingya ethnicity here. We would never accept them as one of our ethnic groups."

At least 18 people are believed to have died when the boat -- transporting residents of an internally displaced people's camp to Rakhine's capital Sittwe -- capsized.

Sittwe-based police officer Aye Khin Maung told local media last week that the 49 people were "Bengali" heading to purchase supplies in preparation for the region's rainy season.

In its statement, the U.S. embassy extended condolences to the families of the victims, adding that local reports had said that they were "Rohingya".

"Restrictions on access to markets, livelihoods, and other basic services in Rakhine State can lead to communities unnecessarily risking their lives in an attempt to improve their quality of life," it added.

Rohingya have faced widespread persecution for decades, but their situation has become ever more perilous since 2012, when Buddhist rioters rampaged through villages in Sittwe, torching Rohingya houses and attacking people with machetes and other crude weapons.

Since then, around 140,000 Rohingya -- and some members of the Kaman community -- have been unable to return to their villages, confined to a swathe of land in squalid displacement camps, where they are often denied basic healthcare.

The Rohingya are denied citizenship under a 1982 law that has been widely condemned by rights groups, and were excluded from a general election Nov. 8 that saw Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party come to power.

Thursday 28 April 2016

Rakhine chief minister says IDPs from all communities need aid

Source MyanmarTimes, 28 April

Rakhine State's new chief minister U Nyi Pu

By Nyan Lynn Aung   |   Thursday, 28 April 2016

Rakhine State's new chief minister says both Buddhist and Muslim communities displaced by conflict need more aid before the onset of the monsoon season.

U Nyi Pu of the National League for Democracy told The Myanmar Times yesterday on his return from IDP camps near Mrauk-U damaged by storms last week that he intended personally to visit camps for internally displaced people from both communities.

"The government has to provide displaced people with settlements that are good, safe and comfortable places for both communities," he said by telephone from the capital Sittwe.

The international community is also mobilising aid for civilians displaced by renewed fighting this month between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed group based in northern Kachin State but with its roots in Rakhine State's Buddhist majority.

Pierre Peron, spokesperson for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said UN aid workers this week had visited six out of eight locations where an estimated total of about 1000 recently displaced civilians are sheltering in the townships of Buthidaung, Kyauktaw and Rathedaung.

Many are staying in currently empty schools. Mr Peron said the government had provided food for the IDPs, but there was a need for sleeping mats, cooking utensils, more water and sanitation.

"We are mobilising our response to reach the most vulnerable to provide non-food items," he said.

The small camps visited by U Ni Pu near the ancient Arakanese capital of Mrauk-U are sheltering a total of about 100 Rakhine Buddhists displaced in late 2015 by clashes between the Arakan Army and the Tatmadaw. Others are staying with relatives.

U Ni Pu said he would also visit IDP camps with the Japan International Cooperation Agency before the end of the month.

While the government is hoping that the recently displaced villagers will soon return to their homes – some in remote hills close to Chin State – aid workers are concerned there will be no let-up in the military offensives against the Arakan Army, meaning shelters will soon be needed once students return to classes in June.

More than 100,000 mostly stateless Muslim Rohingya – officially referred to as Bengalis – make up the large majority of IDPs in Rakhine following communal violence that erupted in 2012. However, U Ni Pu's remarks and his decision to first visit displaced Buddhists reflect the political pressure he is under from the Arakan National Party (ANP).

The ANP, which defends the interests of the Buddhist majority, emerged as the single biggest party in the state in last November's elections but was denied the position of chief minister by NLD leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

ANP secretary U Tun Aung Kyaw said the chief minister should personally visit civilians displaced by armed conflict as much as possible to show his sympathy.

"We have been waiting for and watching the new government, and its actions disappointed us because we could not see enthusiasm on the part of the Rakhine chief minister," he said.

Responding to criticism, U Nyi Pu said, "We will take action step by step for all aspects of development in Rakhine State but improvements take time in some cases. However we will not be neglecting any cases."

The state's information department said some state ministers and members of the ANP had gone together to see Rakhine civilians displaced by the recent fighting between the Arakan Army and the Tatmadaw. They said rice, oil, medicine and instant noodles were delivered.

U Min Aung, a minister for urban development, said it had been the first time that the new government had visited camps for displaced Rakhine. "It is our responsibility to help people. We don't want to be blamed by the people that we are not different from the previous government. We must show we are really a government of the people," he said.

Rohingya refugees found abandoned in Thai forest

Source presstv, 27 April

A Malaysian search and rescue helicopter flies near an operations camp set up near where a mass grave was discovered in the jungle near the Malaysia-Thailand border in Wang Kelian on May 28, 2015. (AFP photo)
A Malaysian search and rescue helicopter flies near an operations camp set up near where a mass grave was discovered in the jungle near the Malaysia-Thailand border in Wang Kelian on May 28, 2015. (AFP photo)

More than a dozen Muslim Rohingya refugees abandoned by human traffickers have been found in a forest area of southern Thailand, local Thai police officials say.

Thai Police captain Panuwat Chomyong said the refugees, including several children, were found during the early hours of Wednesday in the southern province of Chumpon, adding, "Fourteen Rohingyas, including kids as young as a few years old, were found at around 6 a.m.(Wednesday)."

The official said the smugglers abandoned the group ahead of a police checkpoint in the troubled region. He added that the refugees had initially entered Thailand through Kanchanaburi Province, a much more northern entry point than those usually used by people smugglers.

Human rights groups have accused Thailand of turning a blind eye to well-worn trafficking routes in the deep south that carried thousands of Rohingya refugees over the border into Malaysia.

Responding to calls by international organizations and right groups, Thai enforcement agencies have stepped up crackdown on human trafficking since they discovered a series of mass graves in the troubled region.

In May 2015, Thai and Malaysian authorities unearthed several graves believed to contain the remains of Rohingyas at abandoned jungle camps used by human smugglers along both sides of the border.

Thousands of migrants from Myanmar, mainly from the Rohingya community, make the dangerous sea crossing to southern Thailand.

Rohingya refugees mostly flee to neighboring countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has repeatedly called on Myanmar's neighboring countries to accept Rohingya Muslims fleeing the state-sponsored bloody communal violence.

Rescue workers and forensic officials inspect the site of a mass grave uncovered at an abandoned jungle camp in Thailand's southern province of Songkhla on May 1, 2015. (AFP photo)

The Muslim minority group has witnessed attacks by extremist Buddhists in Myanmar. The violence has forced nearly 100,000 of them to flee the country.

According to the United Nations, the Rohingya Muslims of Myanmar are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world. They have faced torture, neglect and repression since Myanmar's independence in 1948. 

Myanmar denies citizenship to its 1.3 million Rohingyas, placing restrictions on their movement, marriage, and economic opportunities. The government has been repeatedly criticized by human rights groups for failing to protect the Rohingya.

Myanmar's opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has come under fire for her stance on the violence against the Rohingya. The Nobel Peace Prize laureate has refused to censure the Myanmar military for its persecution of the Muslims.

Thursday 21 April 2016

Myanmar Rohingya boat victims ‘forced’ to travel by sea

Source Hindustantimes, 20 April

A handout photo taken on April 19, 2016 and released to AFP from anonymous Rohingya Muslim minority residents shows people carrying a dead body after a boat capsized off the coast in Sittwe. (AFP)
Witnesses to a boat capsize that left some 20 people dead, including children, say the victims were from the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority and blamed the tragedy on restrictions that forced them to journey by sea.

At least 21 people, including nine children, died after a packed boat capsized in choppy waters on Tuesday as it approached the Rakhine state capital of Sittwe, according to the United Nations.

Most of the passengers were inhabitants of Sin Tet Maw, in Paukaw township, a camp for Rohingya Muslim minority members forced from their homes by bouts of communal violence.

"It (the boat accident) happened because of unsafe transport... we can not use direct transport (overland) to Sittwe to buy goods or medicine," Rohingya activist, Kyaw Hla Aung, told AFP from Sittwe.

The boat's passengers had received special permission to travel by boat to the market in Sittwe from Paukaw -- a journey through the mouth of a wide river that then skirts several kilometres around the coast to the capital.

The Rohingya have been forced to live in apartheid-like conditions ever since unrest between Buddhists and Muslims left hundreds dead in 2012.

Their movement and access to services, including health care, is severely restricted by authorities in the Buddhist-majority country.

The activist said he had counted 22 bodies in Sittwe and they all were Rohingya.

Another Rohingya man, Tin Hla, who also lives in the camp of 1500 people, said his son was unaccounted for among the boat passengers.

"When we need to go to Sittwe, we have to go there in an unsafe way (by sea)," he said, adding that he fears the worst for his son and had travelled to Sittwe to find his body.

Myanmar does not formally recognise the Rohingya as one of the country's patchwork of ethnic minorities.

A rising tide of Buddhist nationalism has in recent years deepened hostility towards the group -- most of whom are rendered stateless by a web of citizenship laws.

Many Rohingya trace their roots in the country back for generations.

But officials rotuinely refer to them as "Bengalis" -- a pejorative term identifying them as outsiders from neighbouring Bangladesh.

Violence and deprivation has led thousands of the minority group to take to the sea in crammed boats, seeking sanctuary in Muslim-majority Malaysia and Indonesia.

They were among the victims of last year's Southeast Asian migrant crisis which saw trafficking networks suddenly unravel, leaving thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants stranded without food at sea.

Pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has come under pressure for failing to speak up for the rights of the much-maligned Rohingya.

She has however vowed to press for greater autonomy for other ethnic minorities.

Reacting to the accident the UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Yanghee Lee tweeted her "sorrow" at the deaths of "Rohingyas, including children", adding "Must find solution".

It's way past time to stop mistreating Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar

Source latimes, 18 April

APTOPIX Bangladesh Myanmar RefugeesA Rohingya Muslim man who fled Myanmar to Bangladesh to escape religious violence cries as he pleads from a boat after he and others were intercepted by Bangladeshi border authorities in Taknaf, Bangladesh, in June 2012. Bangladesh had been returning thousands of Rohingya Muslims, according to human rights groups.(Anurup Titu / AP)
By Syed Hamid Albar

There are more refugees and displaced people today, driven from their home by war, persecution, poverty, and climate change, than at any time since World War II. In America, perhaps, it is the Syrian refugee crisis that earns the most attention. But there is another crisis which also speaks deeply to the Assn. of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, and to the Muslim world: the plight of the Rohingya.

The Rohingya are the indigenous people of southwestern Myanmar, or so-called Rakhine State. For years now, they have taken to overcrowded and leaky boats on the open sea, submitted to dangerous human trafficking networks, and seen their families split apart in a desperate bid to find safety somewhere, anywhere. Like many of the world's refugees, they are Muslim.

But Myanmar is not Syria, torn apart by civil war. Last year, Myanmar's economy was the fastest-growing in the world. Myanmar is entering a widely heralded new era of democracy, under the direction of Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. Some of the praise she and her country receive is deserved. But much of it overlooks the unacceptable treatment of her Muslim citizens, who have suffered an ongoing and accelerating process of "otherization" and dehumanization that is deeply frightening to watch.

TOPSHOTS-INDONESIA-SEASIA-MIGRANTSBoats of Acehnese fishermen (in front) tow a boat of Rohingya migrants in their boat off the coast near the city of Geulumpang in Indonesia's East Aceh district of Aceh province before being rescued on May 20, 2015. Hundreds of starving boatpeople were rescued off Indonesia on May 20 as Myanmar for the first time offered to help ease a regional migrant crisis blamed in part on its treatment of the ethnic Rohingya minority. (JANUAR / AFP/Getty Images)

For decades, the Rohingya have been subject to strict restrictions. Since 1982, they were summarily rendered stateless. Today they have been herded into detention and internment camps, stripped of their valuables, denied freedom of movement, and left impoverished and lacking in even basic healthcare. It is no wonder that so many thousands make such risky journeys across treacherous waters. The plight of the Rohingya may not be well known in the West, but it is well known in the ASEAN and Muslim world.

In fact, it is one of our highest priorities.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC, the world's second largest intergovernmental organization after the U.N., has appointed me as special envoy to Myanmar. It is a sign of how seriously we take the systemic Islamophobia of Myanmar's government, and the inexplicable silence of Aung San Suu Kyi--otherwise a champion of the dispossessed and distressed--over this treatment.

Last week in fact, heads of state from more than 30 Muslim countries, including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Pakistan, among others, and delegations from the remaining OIC member states, gathered in Istanbul for the 13th Islamic Summit. They reiterated their support for the Rohingya and called on the new government of Myanmar, under Aung San Suu Kyi, to begin a national reconciliation process, to restore to the Rohingya the rights they deserve, to honor the potential and promise of this new era in their history.

Syed Hamid Albar
Syed Hamid Albar is the Organization of 
Islamic Cooperation's special envoy 
to Myanmar. 
(OIC Today)

Indeed, national reconciliation and reintegration of the Rohingya is the only feasible, practicable way of addressing the humanitarian crisis created by years of discriminatory policy and exclusion. Should Myanmar truly wish to re-enter the international community, and realize the full potential long denied it by years of isolation and exclusion, then the question of the Rohingya must be addressed. The country has much to lose, and much to gain.

We hope the lessons of the past years, and the potential of years ahead, encourages the government of Myanmar to move in the right direction. For our part, the OIC is committed to leveraging the full diplomatic, economic and political resources of the Muslim world to that end - a commitment that was also made at last week's Islamic Summit in Istanbul.

We remind the government of Myanmar, too, of all the ways in which they have worked with, benefited from, and built ties to our member states.

"National reconciliation  and reintegration 

of the Rohingya is the only  feasible, 

practicable  way of ddressing the 

 humanitarian crisis created by

years of  discriminatory policy

Myanmar is already a member of ASEAN, which groups 10 Southeast Asian countries together, forming what would be the world's seventh-largest economy, and third-largest country. Three of ASEAN's members are OIC member states--Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei. Of these, Indonesia is the world's largest Muslim country and largest economy. Sixty percent of the world's Muslims live in the Asia Pacific area, meaning that Myanmar is at the heart of a growing region, and a fast-growing Muslim market, which is developing strong links between the Gulf region and Southeast Asia, for which Myanmar could be a potential hub.

We hope, too, that the government of Myanmar can see the undeniable benefits of a long-term partnership with the Muslim world. A resolution of the status of the Rohingya would open the door to deeper ties with the Muslim world, which bring political, economic and national security benefits to Myanmar. A close relationship between Myanmar and the Muslim world is common sense. As Myanmar opens to the world, it welcomes investment, trade and tourism. The Muslim market would look to Myanmar, given its location between South Asia, Southeast Asia and China. These are not abstract aspirations.

In 2015, during catastrophic floods, the Royal Brunei Armed Forces provided emergency humanitarian assistance to the people of Myanmar. On the election of Myanmar's first civilian president, Indonesia's (also elected) president, Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, called for increased cooperation between these two Southeast Asian democracies, "especially in the fields of economy, trade and democratization." Bilateral trade was $500 million in 2014, and businessmen from both countries have met to discuss doubling that amount in this very year.

Persecution of Rohingya Muslims, not genocideRohingya children play during rain at an Internally Displaced Persons camp near Sittwe of Rakhine State, western Myanmar, 22 March 2016.(NYUNT WIN / EPA)

Malaysia, in turn, imports $303 billion worth of goods from Myanmar, while trade between these two countries is also accelerating. Malaysia is the seventh-largest investor in Myanmar; for example, OCK Group, a Malaysian telecom provider, is planning to build 900 cellphone towers in the country.

These relationships are natural, beneficial and critical. But should the Rohingya crisis continue, Myanmar may find that many of its neighbors--including Bangladesh, one of the world's largest Muslim countries--will be closed for business, for assistance, and for political engagement and long-term relationships.

No country should be so isolated. The choice to gain new partnerships, new relationships, and to benefit from the region in which it lies, or to descend into ever more discriminatory and violent policies, belongs to Myanmar. We hope Myanmar will make the right decision, and we stand ready to work with Myanmar to finally bring the Rohingya peace and provide them the citizenship, prosperity and security they have so long been denied. It is the better thing to do. It is also the right thing to do. Let us work together to make it happen.

Syed Hamid Albar is the OIC special envoy to Myanmar. He is former foreign minister and minister for defense for the government of Malaysia. 

Tuesday 19 April 2016


Source Burmacampaignuk, 6 April

Statement by members of the European Burma Network

Members of the European Burma Network (EBN) call upon the new government of Burma to act swiftly to start to address the Rohingya crisis in Burma/Myanmar.

The past five years have seen a dramatic escalation of human rights abuses, repression, discrimination and violence against the Rohingya. Around 150,000 people have been displaced and are living in camps which have been described by senior United Nations officials as having some of the worst conditions in the world. Well over 100,000 Rohingya, more than ten percent of the population, have fled the country in the face of increasing repression, of whom thousands are believed to have drowned fleeing by boat.

Human Rights Watch and Fortify Rights have documented human rights abuses which meet the legal definition of ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. Experts on genocide have also warned of the dangers of genocide against the Rohingya Most Rohingya were stripped of their right to vote in last years election, were excluded from the recent national census, and continue to be denied their legal right to citizenship.

For decades military government of Burma have pursued a twin track policy of repression and impoverishment in an attempt to drive the Rohingya ethnic group out of the country. The new NLD led government faces enormous challenges in addressing this legacy. However, given the seriousness of the humanitarian and human rights crisis, bold and decisive action is needed immediately to start to address this issue.

Members of the European Burma Network endorse the four action steps proposed by the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK which the NLD could implement to start to address the Rohingya crisis.

These are:

Action against hate-speech and extremists – Take action to prevent hate speech and incitement of violence, and demonstrate moral leadership, with Aung San Suu Kyi and other NLD leaders personally and specifically speaking out against prejudice and hatred, and challenging the extreme nationalist narrative.

Ensure humanitarian access – Immediately lift all restrictions on the operations of international aid agencies and also start to devote more government resources to assisting IDPs and isolated villagers. Ensure safe return for all those displaced in Rakhine state.

Reform or repeal of the 1982 Citizenship Law – The lack of full citizenship lies at the root of most of the discrimination faced by the Rohingya. There is no way this issue can be avoided, and it is much better that an NLD-led government bite the bullet and deal with it at the start of their period in government when they have a new and strong mandate, strong party unity, and elections are years away. It will have to be addressed at some point. Better it is done while the NLD-led government is strongest.

Justice and accountability – An NLD-led government should set up a credible independent investigation with international experts to investigate these crimes and propose action. If the NLD government fails to do so, the United Nations should establish its own Commission of Inquiry.

Implementing these steps immediately not only makes sense on human rights and humanitarian grounds, but also politically. The NLD led government, with its new and overwhelming mandate, will be at its strongest in its first year, and therefore more able to withstand any short term controversy over unpopular but necessary measures. Failure to address the crisis will lead to continued suffering, human rights violations and deaths, much of which could have been avoided, and may also be more potentially destabilising to the government in the long term.

In many areas the ability of the NLD led government to act to address key problems faces difficulties created by the limitations on its power in the military drafted constitution. Acting to implement these four steps is within the power of the government, if it chooses to act.

As organisations which responded to the call of the NLD and democracy activists in Burma/Myanmar for international support, we remain committed to helping to promote human rights for everyone in Burma/Myanmar, regardless of race or religion. We trust that now that you are in a position to act to promote human rights, you will do so.

Signed by

Actions Birmanie (Belgium)

Association Suisse-Birmanie

Burma Action Ireland

Burma Campaign UK

Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK

Christian Solidarity Worldwide

Info Birmanie (France)

Society for Threatened Peoples

Swedish Burma Committee

Thursday 14 April 2016

Is the Burmese Military Keeping Rohingya Women As Sex Slaves?

Source vice, 12 April

Regiment 270's military camp a few miles from Sittwe.

Burma's Muslims are still having a pretty awful time of it. Last year, the country's Buddhist majority launched a series of attacks on the minority Rohingya Muslim population, supposedly because they're not "ethnically pure". The attacks have continued this year and now include the general Muslim population, as well as the ethnic Rohingyas.

After monitoring the plight of the Rohingya and the two incidents of violence against them inJune and October last year, I decided to fly out to Burma in wary anticipation of another round of trouble. The problem was that I had no money, no commission, no media organisation backing me and the mainstream media had pretty much stopped reporting on the issue. When I turned to the public to help fund my trip, the response was overwhelming (turns out people do have an interest in helping to expose the extended violent persecution of vulnerable minorities) and they collectively helped me raise enough money to go.     

We stayed in Sittwe, the main city in Arakhan state, which is where the majority of the Rohingya camps are situated. Travelling past the police check points every morning and into the Rohingya camps, it felt like being transported into a parallel world where suddenly it's fine to forget about your obligations as a human to not be an unscrupulous bully to a group of people just because they originally come from somewhere different to you. The Rohingya Muslims aren't recognised as citizens of Burma, meaning they have no rights and very little access to education and healthcare.

A Rohingya boy at an unregistered internally displaced person camp in Arakhan state.

While in Sittwe, some of my contacts told me about Rohingya women being kept at a military base. I tracked down some of the eyewitnesses, but I needed to get close to the camp to confirm what I'd heard. Bear in mind that taking pictures and video of a Burmese military base obviously isn't something to be taken lightly, and the people who'd agreed to take me there risked their lives if they were caught.

The evidence I obtained during my week in Sittwe strongly implies that the Burmese military is imprisoning Rohingya women from the Arakhan region and using them as sex slaves. That evidence has been passed on to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), a United Nations agency dealing with labour issues, who have lodged a complaint to the Burmese government and launched an investigation in an attempt to rescue the women.

Eyewitness testimony of a military camp situated a few miles from Sittwe town (and home to Regiment 270) describes around 20 women and three children under the age of eight being held at the camp. One of the witnesses, Amina (name changed), described walking past the camp when she heard voices calling out to her. The imprisoned women asked Amina if she was Muslim; she is.     

"Please help us. If you can help us escape from here you will go to jannah (heaven)," one woman told her. "Many military men come, we can't breathe. We want to become Muslim again. If we stay like this we will go to hell." The intended meaning of what was said was, Amina felt, clear: these women are being raped, and they don't have to say it explicitly for anyone to understand what's taking place.

The prisoners asked Amina to pass the message on to someone who could help. "Our parents can't find us," they added.

The women only managed to speak to Amina because it was Burmese Independence Day and the soldiers were away. "We've been arrested here for quite a long time now. They have left us today because they have a special visitor," they told Amina. The women continued, telling Amina that if the word was spread too much that the military would kill them, as well as warning her that she was at risk of being killed herself if she was spotted talking to them.

Amina saw three children inside the camp. Two of them popped their heads up on the windowsills and one came up to the fence so that Amina could pass through some vegetables she'd collected. "The women were crying," she told me. "Some of them called me daughter, others called me sister."

Amina described some of the women as pregnant, which could indicate that they've been prisoners since the June or October violence and have become pregnant during their imprisonment. Information relayed from various sources indicates that local villagers are aware that women are being kept as prisoners but are too scared to speak out. And as Rohingya aren't recognised as citizens of Burma – and therefore have no rights – it's fair to assume that the punishment inflicted on them for making these kinds of allegations wouldn't exactly be regulated.

A Rohingya village burnt to the ground in Arakhan state. Photo by Spike Johnson.

An 18-year-old Rohingya man I interviewed described another camp 20 minutes away (which is home to the medical regiment), where another woman was apparently being held under similar conditions. He was one of around 14 rice paddy workers who went to speak Rakhine with the woman, the language spoken by the Buddhist population of Arakhan. The woman replied, "Don't speak Rakhine with me any more, I am Muslim and a prisoner here."

She then told the men her father's name and where she was from. They asked her what she was doing at a military camp if she was Muslim, and if she was ready to come with them. She replied, "I have two children," implying that her children are being used to keep her at the camp. This evidence has also been passed on to the ILO.

I tracked down other eyewitnesses, but they were mostly too afraid to speak. One woman who'd seen the women imprisoned at Regiment 270's camp initially agreed to speak to me, but backed out after her husband threatened to divorce her if she spoke to any journalists about the situation. The Rohingya have no rights or official form of protection, and those who do speak to journalists are risking their lives, so the reluctance to divulge what they know is perfectly understandable. 

The last known sighting of these women was at the end of March and it's uncertain whether they're still alive. It's also uncertain if the women are still at the camp or have been split up into different camps. But what is certain is that there are innocent Rohingya women being held captive by the Burmese military and plenty of locals know about it, only it's impossible for them to do anything about it without the threat of losing their lives. 

Follow Assed on Twitter: @AssedBaig