YANGON: Two senior Myanmar government officials have delivered aid to a remote Rohingya Muslim village, and guaranteed residents’ safety, after they were cut off and threatened by hostile Rakhine Buddhist neighbors, one of the officials said.
Last week, Reuters exclusively reported on the dire situation faced by thousands of Rohingya Muslims trapped in the villages of Ah Nauk Pyin and Nyaung Pin Gyi in the western state of Rakhine.
They had begged authorities for safe passage out of the area after getting death threats from Buddhists.
Fragile relations between the Rohingya villagers and their ethnic Rakhine Buddhist neighbors were shattered on Aug. 25, when deadly attacks by Rohingya militants prompted a ferocious response from Myanmar’s security forces.
Nearly 500 people have been killed and more than half a million Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh to escape what the United Nations has called a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing”.
The state’s chief minister, Nyi Pu, and Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Win Myat Aye, who is leading the government’s response to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Rakhine, made the surprise trip to Ah Nauk Pyin on Wednesday.
On Friday, Win Myat Aye said he first learned about the situation in the villages from international news reports.
“I don’t know how Ah Nauk Pyin village got into the international media,” Win Myat Aye told Reuters.
Aid workers in Rakhine said the Reuters report alerted diplomats to the situation faced by the villagers and prompted them to raise concerns with the government.
The two Rohingya villages are in the south of Rathedaung township, far away from the border with Bangladesh.
They are surrounded by either water or Buddhist villages and were among five remaining settlements in the region, after 16 other villages were burnt down.
Asked about the threats the villagers faced from Rakhine neighbors, Win Myat Aye said: “I told them they shouldn’t worry about that. If they are intimidated, we’ll take action according to the law. We will stop that intimidation.”
The ministers, who flew in on a helicopter, delivered packs of biscuits, tins of fish and bags of fish paste.
They promised rice and other supplies would arrive within a week, residents said.
“We don’t have enough food or proper healthcare and we can’t go anywhere,” Maung Maung, chief of the village of Ah Nauk Pyin, told Reuters by telephone.
“We’re threatened by Rakhine neighbors.”
Maung Maung said the ministers discussed the situation in the village for 25 minutes.
Win Myat Aye said aid donated by Indonesia would be used to support the village, as well as Buddhist and other Muslim communities suffering from the conflict.
“They told us about their needs. The government will support their basic needs,” he said.
Residents from the other Rohingya village, Nyaung Pin Gyi, said they had not been visited and had not got any aid.
About a million Rohingya lived in Rakhine until the recent violence. Most face draconian travel restrictions and are denied citizenship in a country where many Buddhists regard them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.