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Sky Views: 'We are going to rape your women'


Katie Stallard, Asia Correspondent

Myanmar's Rohingya Muslims were already one of the world's most vulnerable minorities.
Unwanted and unrecognised in their own country, they have been effectively stateless since their citizenship was revoked in 1982.
More than 140,000 were already living in desperate conditions in internment camps, after deadly clashes with Buddhist nationalists in 2012.
Now tens of thousands are on the move again, forced to abandon their homes during six weeks of escalating violence in the country's northeast.
Some have made it across the border into Bangladesh, bringing with them harrowing accounts of helicopter gunships firing on villages, the systematic rape of women and girls, young men being rounded up, shot dead, and pushed into mass graves.
Last week a senior UN official accused the government of trying to ethnically cleanse its Muslim minority.
One man told Amnesty International how security forces approached his village, shooting at people as they were running away.
"They surrounded the village and started going from house to house. They were threatening to rape the women saying, 'We are going to rape your kalar women'."
"Kalar" or "foreigner" is a derogatory term used against the Rohingya in Myanmar, also known as Burma, where they are often treated as illegal immigrants by the Buddhist majority.
You might think this would be something the country's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel laureate and global human rights icon, would want to speak out about.
Katie Stallard
Another woman described how her children were marched away at gunpoint.
"They tied my two sons up," she said, "They were beaten for around 30 minutes before being taken away."
She has not seen or heard from them since.
Myanmar's government denies the allegations and accuses "Rohingya lobbyists" of making them up.
We would like to be able to go there - to verify these stories and see the situation for ourselves - but independent journalists, along with aid workers and human rights groups, are not being allowed in.
Government forces say they are conducting a counterinsurgency operation in response to an attack on a border post in October, which killed nine police officers.
The area is under military lockdown and extended curfew.
Humanitarian groups say badly-needed food aid deliveries have also been cut off.
Some 3,000 children are already suffering severe malnutrition in part of the state, Matthew Smith from the Fortify Rights group said via his Twitter account.
Video: Oct 2015: Genocide against the Rohingya
"More than half could die very soon," he warned.
You might think this would be something the country's de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel laureate and global human rights icon, would want to speak out about.
During her decades of struggle against the military junta, she urged others around the world to do so for them.
"Please use your liberty to promote ours," she once pleaded.
But one year on from her party's landslide election victory, she has been remarkably quiet on the human rights of the Rohingya, an unloved and politically unpalatable issue within the country..
"The sad reality is we're all reading political tea leaves in trying to figure out Aung San Suu Kyi's real position on what is happening to the Rohingya in northern Rakhine state," Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, told me.
"A second question is whether she is even able to rein in the army's scorched earth tactics there if she wanted to."
I visited some of the camps last year, just before the election. I found children in dire need of medical care, and families without enough to eat, but also optimism.
A number of people told me how hopeful they were that things would change if Aung San Suu Kyi was elected.
"If Aung San Suu Kyi gets the vote, we will get freedom here," one teenage boy assured me.
"I trust Aung San Suu Kyi, Aung San Suu Kyi will help us," he said.
I hope he's right.
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