Ethnic identity determines to a large degree who belongs to the Burmese polity, and the place in it of those who do; some groups are de facto relegated to subordinate positions in a hierarchy dominated by the Bamar majority. But the Rohingya are excluded altogether. Since the late seventies, the government’s policy has been one of containment.
Husbands, neighbours, grandsons – police and troops dragged them from their homes in Myo Thu Gyi, Rakhine state, and executed them. All were innocent civilians say witnesses to the killings, revenge for police deaths in a rebel raid
In all likelihood, the attacks were carried out by militants from Rakhine State's mostly stateless Muslim minority, known as the Rohingya. In the aftermath, three districts in the north of the state were declared a "military operations area," and the security forces launched the still ongoing "Operation Backdoor" to hunt down suspected attackers.
The administration of President Thein Sein has refused to disclose any evidence the “Myanmar Muslim Army” is real, and this has raised the prospect of the government inventing an Islamic terrorist threat to justify a new front in its longtime persecution of Muslims. All of them were arrested between September and November.
Myo Thu Gyi was the first village attacked by the security forces. Until now, the area has been completely closed off to foreign journalists, but TIME was granted a permit to visit Maungdaw independently, the first since the violence began.
Sittwe, Myanmar - Ruk and Kun Suma were born five minutes apart on March 27 in a camp for displaced Rohingya in Rakhine State, a northwestern province of Myanmar. Their mother, an emaciated 40-year-old woman named Noor Begun, suffers from tuberculosis and is unable to breastfeed them. The family cannot afford milk either.
'I didn’t know it was going to be like this,' says Mohammad Idiris, a Rohingya Muslim speaking from a refugee camp in Aceh. 'If I had known, I would have stayed in Myanmar.' Last October, Mohammad Idiris put himself in the hands of human traffickers in Myanmar. His decision followed years of ethnic persecution of Rohingya Muslims, and it started a harrowing journey of more than six months that never brought him to his chosen destination, Malaysia.
President Thein Sein proclaimed before the UN last week that his government places a high priority on ending ethnic conflicts, but that has proved elusive in ruggedly beautiful Kachin state, where the race to exploit abundant natural resources feeds a growing humanitarian crisis. Pictures by Arturo Rodriguez.