Myanmar’s Vice President Henry Van Thio has sought to ease tensions over the persecution of Rohingya muslims in his country’s Rakhine state, saying the crisis, which his American counterpart Mike Pence described as a threat to the world, had “improved”.
Speaking at the United Nations General Assembly, Van Thio said his government is “deeply concerned” about the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of people from Myanmar to Bangladesh.
He said: “I am happy to inform you that the situation has improved. No armed clashes have been reported since September 5. Accordingly, we are concerned by reports that the numbers of Muslims crossing into Bangladesh remain unabated.”
The Vice President repeated the government line that the “great majority” of Rohingya Muslims had stayed behind, echoing de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s controversial speech on the matter.
But his statement that there had been no acts of violence or village clearances since early September, has been widely disputed.
But there’s two sides to every story.
Kyaw San Tint, a resident of Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state said: “I don’t think we can live together again because the Rohingya have bombs and weapons. Myanmar’s military forces are limited, we don’t know when they will attack.”
More than 400,000 Rohingya have fled Rakhine state, crossing the border into neighbouring Bangladesh, where huge numbers of makeshift camps have been erected to house them.
Aid agencies are struggling to meet the basic needs of the refugees as services, ranging from food, education and health care, to water, sanitation, and solid-waste management, become strained.