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Rebels Target Rohingya Minority in Western Myanmar Attack

Photo : Reuters

In the aftermath of a drone strike near Maungdaw town in western Myanmar, Abdur, a 45-year-old Rohingya farmer, recounted the harrowing moments when an armed drone attacked during afternoon prayers at a nearby mosque. "Within seconds, there was an explosion, and I lost consciousness," he recalled, his legs injured from the blast. Speaking from a refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, Abdur provided one of the few eyewitness testimonies of the ongoing conflict in Maungdaw, where Rohingya Muslims are fleeing amid escalating violence.

"It is a horrible situation," Abdur lamented, surrounded by bandages and expressing concern for his family still in Myanmar. The Cox's Bazar camps, already housing approximately one million displaced Rohingya, are straining under new arrivals despite Bangladesh's repeated assertions that it cannot accept more refugees from Myanmar.

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While Bangladesh's foreign and interior ministries have yet to respond to inquiries regarding the situation, reports indicate a growing number of Rohingya seeking refuge in Cox's Bazar due to deteriorating conditions in Rakhine state. The area, where Maungdaw is located, has become a focal point of clashes between Myanmar's military junta and the Arakan Army (AA), an armed group resisting the junta's rule.

Last month, the AA laid siege to Maungdaw, prompting the junta to label them as "terrorists" and announce ongoing military operations in the region. Despite calls for verification, the current state of the conflict remains unconfirmed, with neither the AA nor the junta responding to media inquiries.

Volker Turk of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recently highlighted the plight of tens of thousands of trapped Rohingya in Maungdaw, underscoring the longstanding persecution faced by this minority community in Myanmar. The Rohingya have endured targeted violence, including accusations of ethnic cleansing, prompting mass displacements in previous years.

Inside Maungdaw, residents describe a dire situation marked by food shortages and restricted movement due to the conflict's volatility. An unnamed resident, now relocated within rebel-held areas, spoke of widespread hunger and the risk of reprisals for those venturing outdoors. The UN World Food Programme reported that its food warehouse in Maungdaw, critical for sustaining tens of thousands, was looted and destroyed in June, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.

Meanwhile, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has suspended essential healthcare services in parts of Rakhine, including Maungdaw, citing security risks and leaving vulnerable populations without access to medical care.

For Abdur and many like him, fleeing to Bangladesh was a last resort amid the uncertainty and violence engulfing their homeland. "I never thought of leaving my village," Abdur reflected. "I don't see any future for us. It all looks bleak."

July 2, 2024 4:03 p.m. 423

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