In Myanmar, one girl’s plight epitomizes Rohingya struggle

Although Begum said her grandparents owned their family’s house there, they have neither been allowed to return nor compensated for its destruction. Vanna Sara, a Buddhist abbot at Sittwe’s Seik Ke Daw Min monastery, said harsh policies were necessary to protect Buddhists. Questions? I want to send her to school like all the other kids,” she said as Rosmaida burrowed into her lap in Dar Paing, near the state capital, Sittwe. … The reality is that there’s a lot she (Suu Kyi) could be doing, but isn’t. Email wendy@religionnews.com. The government puts the toll at 52 dead or missing and blames extremists for the killings. Suu Kyi’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment. A report issued by UNICEF in May said a staggering 150 children under the age of 5 die every day in Myanmar, while nearly 30 percent are malnourished. Last week, her government said it would also bar members of a U.N.-approved fact-finding mission from entering the country to investigate alleged rights violations by security forces against the Rohingya. Rosmaida is now being helped by an international humanitarian charity, which is giving her ready-to-eat packets of therapeutic food paste to alleviate severe acute malnutrition, which the World Health Organization describes as “a life-threatening condition requiring urgent treatment.”
But Begum is concerned because her daughter’s appetite is so low, “she has trouble eating all of them.”
Twice a day, she takes her daughter’s hand and walks her through Dar Paing’s labyrinth corridors, a place Rosmaida has lived in her entire life. “I want to give her an education. Soon, Begum will have another reason to worry: She is pregnant again. “The Rohingya are no closer now to getting their rights … and in some respects the situation is much worse,” he said. Suu Kyi says her administration is dealing with the issue by implementing the recommendations of a commission led by former U.N. The man she married died shortly after he was detained in Malaysia, where he was trying to bring their family for a better life. Bones protrude through the flimsy skin of her chest. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, which called on the government to close the displaced camps and allow their inhabitants to return home. Begum has since remarried, but her fisherman husband sometimes comes home from a day of work with less than a dollar, or nothing. Suu Kyi has denied such policies equate to ethnic cleansing, but international rights groups insist that’s exactly what they are. Frail and severely malnourished, she looks a lot like every other underfed child here — until you realize she’s not really like any of them at all. “This is worse than a prison,” Rosmaida’s 20-year-old mother, Hamida Begum, said of the makeshift hut they call home — the place where her daughter was born that floods with every heavy rain. Western Myanmar is on the frontline of a population explosion, and Muslims, he said, are trying to “swallow the whole region.”
“They can’t be trusted. does not have specific statistics for the camps, half of whose inhabitants are children, aid workers say the situation inside them is even worse. Although southern Rakhine State, where Rosmaida lives, was not directly affected, the region has experienced a spike in tensions. That changed dramatically on June 5, 2012, when Buddhist mobs began attacking Muslims and setting homes ablaze. That’s how we feel.”
When Begum settled in Dar Paing after the 2012 violence, she tried to start her life anew. “But it’s not possible because she’s so sick. On Tuesday, a 100-strong Buddhist mob in Sittwe killed one Rohingya man and injured six others who ventured into the city under police escort to buy boats. The troubling thing today, rights groups say, is that this stance has been adopted by the administration of Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace laureate and longtime opposition leader who rose to power after her party swept national elections last year. Any hope that Suu Kyi — once lauded worldwide as a human rights icon — might turn things around has been shattered by her silence and the reality that life for the Rohingya has deteriorated by the day. It’s hard, she says, because Rosmaida’s tiny joints often hurt. Today her neighborhood — where denuded trees and the destroyed remains of homes are still visible — is occupied by Buddhist squatters. Most of the camps remain open, though, and Suu Kyi’s administration restricts access to the region, blocking journalists from independent access to the north altogether. … She cannot grow.”
The Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group, have long been denied citizenship, freedom of movement and basic rights in Myanmar, a country that largely sees them as foreigners from neighboring Bangladesh even though most were born here. DAR PAING, Myanmar (AP) Ever since she was born in this squalid camp for displaced members of Myanmar’s ethnic Rohingya minority, Rosmaida Bibi has struggled to do something most of the world’s children do effortlessly: grow. And while other kids her age chatter incessantly, Rosmaida is listless, only able to speak a handful of first words: “Papa.” ”Mama.” ”Rice.”
Half a decade after a brutal wave of anti-Muslim violence exploded in this predominantly Buddhist nation, forcing more than 120,000 Rohingya Muslims into a series of camps in western Myanmar, this is what the government’s policy of persecution, segregation and neglect looks like up close. That makes it hard to care for her biggest concern — her daughter — who is lucky just to be alive. But her tragic story has mirrored that of many Rohingya. Poor, unemployed and prohibited from crossing checkpoints into more affluent Buddhist-only areas, Begum has been unable to find anyone who can help. Begum has taken her daughter to local clinics half a dozen times, but her condition has never improved. Over the last year, “there’s been mass killing, mass rape, widespread forced labor and other violations, all committed with complete impunity.”
After a Rohingya insurgent group killed nine officers in northern Rakhine State in October — the first reported attack of its kind — security forces responded by burning entire villages, raping women and killing an unknown number of people in a rampage that sent 75,000 people fleeing into neighboring Bangladesh, according to the United Nations and international rights groups. Although tensions in Rakhine State go back decades, the neighborhood Begum grew up in in Sittwe was mixed, and she said people there used to get along. No Muslim can be trusted. She wobbles unsteadily when she walks. (Associated Press writer Esther Htusan contributed to this report)

News Wire Subscribers: This article is not available for republication. Begum fled, running barefoot so hard and so fast she realized only later that her feet were covered in blood. “That’s why, to tell you the truth, it’s better that we don’t live with the Muslims. A tiny girl with big brown eyes, Rosmaida is 4 — but barely the size of a 1-year-old. Their son died a few hours after birth. Matthew Smith, who runs the advocacy group Fortify Rights, said: “It’s scandalous that these internment camps still exist five years on. She can’t walk far, and she’s never been able to run. It’s a policy born of decades of military dictatorship and fear that Muslims are encroaching on what should be Buddhist land. Aside from a single district, Sittwe is now entirely Buddhist, and Muslims are prohibited from walking its streets. They’re all scary,” Sara said. Although the U.N.