Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar living in refugee camps in Bangladesh called on Wednesday for democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi to speak up for them and help end their persecution.
Bangladesh, which shares a 200-kilometre (125-mile) border with Myanmar, is home to an estimated 300,000 Rohingya refugees, about a tenth of whom live in squalid conditions in UN-assisted camps.
Around 25 people have been killed and a further 41 wounded in five days of unrest between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, a Myanmar official told AFP on Tuesday.
“Our appeal is to the UN, foreign nations, the Myanmar government and especially to Suu Kyi,” Mohammad Islam, leader of Rohingya refugees living in Nayapara camp in the Bangladesh border town of Teknaf, told AFP.
“Aung San Suu Kyi hasn’t done or said anything for us, yet the Rohingyas including my parents campaigned for her in the 1990 elections. Like most other Burmese people, she is silent about the rights of Rohingya,” he added.
In her first visit outside Myanmar in 24 years, Suu Kyi last month met thousands of Myanmar refugees now living in a Thai border camp. She promised to try as much as she could to help them return home, vowing not to forget them.
Islam said that while she had highlighted the plight of other Myanmar refugees, mostly Karen people, there had been no words of hope for the Rohingya.
“We heard the relations between the government and Suu Kyi have mended and there are now reforms sweeping the country. But for Rohingya, these changes mean nothing,” Islam said.
Speaking a Bengali dialect similar to one in southeast Bangladesh, the Rohingya have long been treated as “foreign” by the Myanmar government and many Burmese, a situation activists say has fostered rifts with Rakhine’s Buddhists.
Islam said that reports were filtering into the camps of new clashes targeting Rohingya people in Rakhine state.
He said that Buddhists and Myanmar security forces had besieged a mosque in Maidanpara village south of the town of Maungdaw.
“Many people were killed,” he said.
In Sittwe, he claimed people had been confined to a cinema hall which was then set ablaze.
“It is all part of a masterplan to eliminate Rohingya from Myanmar. Security forces have joined hands with Rakhines in the slaughter,” he said.
The allegations could not be independently verified by AFP.
Suu Kyi left Myanmar on Wednesday on her first trip to Europe since 1988 to formally accept the Nobel Peace Prize that thrust her into the global limelight two decades ago.
“I would like to do my best for the interests of the people,” Suu Kyi told reporters before her plane left Yangon airport.