Phuketwan, November 22, 2012
PHUKET: At least one village pond in Burma has been poisoned as attempts to exterminate Rohingya Muslims continue, a Phuket-based Rohingya said today.
The man talks by mobile telephone each day with relatives in the village of Muangtaw, in Burma’s troubled Rakhine State.
”My family tells me that the whole village has been warned not to drink or bathe using water from the pond,” he said.
”They say it was poisoned this week, after President Obama’s speech.” Villagers are struggling to find alternative sources of water.
US President Barack Obama made a strong plea in a historic speech in Rangoon on Monday for Burmese to view diversity as a strength, and for an end to violence against the Rohingya ”for the sake of this country’s future.”
Greater freedoms under civilian rule in Burma have so far intensified the race hatred against the Rohingya, with two outbreaks of community violence in Rakhine state since June leaving about 200 people dead, villages torched and tens of thousands in refugee camps.
The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Burma. As stateless people they are also treated poorly if they attempt to flee to neighboring Bangladesh or Thailand.
President Obama used his visit to Burma – the first by a US president – to add his weight to calls for an end to racist behavior.
”For too long, the people of this state, including ethnic Rakhine, have faced crushing poverty and persecution,” he said. ”But there is no excuse for violence against innocent people.”
If the report of the poisoning of a key water source for Rohingya is true, the president’s message may have failed to impress those to whom it was directed.
Aid organisations say that at least one boat a day has been putting to sea from Bangladesh or northern Burma since October as Rohingya men and boys seek sanctuary in Malaysia.
At least one of the boats, containing 112 passengers, landed in Phang Nga, north of Phuket, earlier this month. The men and boys on board are said to have been quickly ”expelled.”
Phuket has a small Rohingya community, mostly of men who have married Thais. Burmese workers in Phuket are said to be as prejudiced against Rohingya on Phuket as their counterparts are inside Burma.