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(February 20, 2013, Oslo, Norway)
Makeshift camps for displaced Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State still lack medical facilities, latrines, shelters, blankets and regular food distribution, several months after initial displacement, Partners Relief & Development said today. Displaced Rohingya were attacked by ethnic Rakhine rebels, army officials, and local police in October, and abuses continue today.

“I have never seen such poverty and such despair,” said Oddny Gumaer, founder of aid organization Partners Relief & Development. “If help does not arrive very soon, thousands will die from lack of food, and from disease.”

Some 800,000 Muslim Rohingyas live in western Burma, where they are denied basic rights, including citizenship, and have been described by the UN as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. Since violence broke out in June of 2012, tens of thousands of Rohingyas have been forced to flee their homes after their villages have been destroyed. They testify suffering systematic abuses, such as torture, execution-style killings, and a lack of aid. These abuses amount to ethnic cleansing, Partners Relief & Development said.

Many Rohingyas confirmed that government officials were among the attackers. “My son was killed by gunshot,” testified Fataema*, the mother of a young man who was killed. “The terrorists threw gasoline at our houses and the police were shooting at us with guns.”

Muhammad Ali has a scar from when a bullet hit him, which he claims the police shot in June. “I wish I had died,” he said.

Rohingya villagers from Rathedaunng Township testify that in their village, two civilians were shot and killed by the police during attacks in October, and 185 civilians were arrested. The detainees were tortured by the police in a local house for 24 hours before being sent to prison. Among the 185, eleven were under-aged children. The detainees have been held incommunicado since their arrest.

Since a series of attacks by police, army, and rebels, the police have tortured and beaten villagers regularly, according to two local Rohingya men. “We are not allowed to leave our village, and if we try to, the police line us up and beat us,” one Rohingya man said.

A man known as “KK” was shot by the police and is now blind in both eyes. He is living in a makeshift camp by the sea together with 3000 other internally displaced persons (IDPs). “I was trying to save our mosque that the rebels lit on fire when I was shot,” he recalls.

The testimonies from these victims and many others lead Partners Relief & Development to believe that the Burma government is actively persecuting, injuring, torturing and killing civilian Rohingyas. This, along with the denial of international aid, is a violation of basic human rights. We therefore call on the Burma government to immediately stop the violent persecution of civilian Rohingyas and to give international and national aid organizations free access to areas where thousands are living in subhuman conditions.

Partners Relief & Development (PRAD) is a registered charity in six countries. The work of Partners has provided emergency relief and sustainable development for tens of thousands of displaced people in Burma since 1994. PRAD seeks free, full lives for the children of Burma and reconciled communities living in peace.

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* All names have been changed