News / Asia

Burma's Divided Rakhine Tests Old Friendships

Burma's Divided Rakhine Tests Old Friendshipsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
Daniel Schearf
December 07, 2012 3:47 PM
Communal violence in Burma's Rakhine state this year left over 170 people dead and displaced more than 100,000. The fighting between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims has divided neighborhoods, turning friends into enemies. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Rakhine state on one friendship that has been tested by the struggle.
Daniel Schearf
Communal violence in Burma's Rakhine state this year left over 170 people dead and displaced more than 100,000.  The fighting between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims has divided neighborhoods, turning friends into enemies.
 
Before it burned down, Myo Thu Gyi village was home to 70 households of both Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims.
 
Village chief Oo Kyaw Aung says he lived and worked side-by-side with Rohingya.
 
But, like most Rakhine, he calls Rohingya Bengalis, a reference to the widespread belief that they are illegal migrants from Bangladesh.

"I used to work a business together with Bengalis for fishing and selling fish.  I also opened a tea shop.  They were my regular customers," he recalled. "They were always at my tea shop, day and night.  We were living together like relatives."
 
For more than 50 years one of his closest friends has been Rohingya Maung Phyu.  
 
"Our family and their family are very close to each other.  We are like real brothers.  I ate food at his house.  He also visited my home and ate with us," he said.
 
But since June, after Muslims allegedly raped and murdered a Rakhine girl, revenge attacks and communal violence quickly spread, increasing tensions across the state.
 
"When the violence started, I told my Bengali friends to leave the village as soon as possible because I didn't want to see them and their family get killed," said Oo Kyaw Aung.
 
The streets were not safe so Oo Kyaw Aung led Maung Phyu and his family fled to their boat. From offshore, they watched their village burn.
 
Like tens of thousands of other Rohingya, they now live in a relief camp near Sittwe.
 
Maung Phyu's son, Kyaw Myo, says they escaped because of Oo Kyaw Aung's warning but are not likely to return.

"Our family never fought with Rakhine families before.  We have good relations with them," he said. "But, now I don't think we can live together again."
 
Kyaw Myo says the root cause of tension is a lack of equal rights and recognition of Rohingya as a people.
 
His father, Maung Phyu, agrees.
 
"We would like to get national identifications.  My grandmother and grandfather were born here.  I was born here too," Maung Phyu explained. "Now, I’m 61 years old.  I want to get citizenship."
 
Although separated by communal violence, the two families stay in touch by phone.
 
But even lifelong friends do not always agree.
 
Oo Kyaw Aung says it was Bengalis from other villages who attacked and burned theirs while his Rohingya friends maintain it was Rakhine Buddhists.

You May Like

Obama Pledges 'Everything I Can' to Close Guantanamo

US president says prison continues 'to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world' More

Sierra Leone Educates on Safe Ebola Burials

Also, country is improving at rapid response to isolated outbreaks, but health workers need to be even faster, officials say More

Religion Aside, Christmas Gains Popularity in Communist Vietnam

Increasingly wealthy Vietnamese embrace Christmas precisely because of its non-religious glamor and commercial appeal More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubansi
X
Sharon Behn
December 19, 2014 9:34 PM
For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video US Decision on Cuba Underscores Divisions Among Miami Cubans

For decades, older, more conservative Cubans have been gathering at Café Versailles on the corner of Calle Ocho to eat Cuban food and talk politics. After hearing of President Barack Obama’s decision, a number of them gathered in front of the café with posters to protest. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on the situation.
Video

Video Three Cities Bid for Future Obama Presidential Library

President Barack Obama still has two years left in his term in office, but the effort to establish his post-presidential library is already underway. The bid for the Obama Presidential Library is down to four locations in three states -- New York, Hawaii, and Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, each of them played an important part in the president’s life before he reached the White House.
Video

Video Cuba Deal is Major Victory for Pope’s Diplomatic Initiatives

Pope Francis played a key role in brokering the US-Cuba deal that was made public earlier this week. It is the most stunning success so far in a series of peacemaking efforts by the pontiff. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video Fears of More Political Gridlock in 2015

2014 proved to be a difficult year politically for President Barack Obama and a very good year for the U.S. Republican Party. Republican gains in the November midterm elections gave them control of the Senate and House of Representatives for the next two years -- setting the stage for more confrontation and gridlock in the final two years of the Obama presidency. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone has a preview from Washington.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.

All About America

AppleAndroid