Aiming to repair communal tensions between Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, Rohingya Muslims—mostly students—now living in refugee camps in the southeastern Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh are raising funds as humanitarian relief for Buddhists displaced by the ongoing conflict in Rakhine State (formerly known as Arakan).
Operating as the Arakan Altruism Society and Educational Network, the young refugees managed to raise 500,000 Myanmar kyat (US$388), which was offered to displaced Buddhists to pay for food and shelter.
“We gave 500,000 Myanmar kyat to the war victims in Rakhine through the Rakhine State Students Union,” Maung Maung Tin, a resident of the Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, told Radio Free Asia’s Myanmar Service.
“Many young students contributed toward that amount, and adults also contributed,” said Tin. “We are now working for continued cooperation between the Rakhine Students Union and the Rohingya Students Union.” (Radio Free Asia)
“Our Buddhist neighbors helped us during that harrowing time and allowed many of us to take shelter in their homes. Now, seeing them being forced from their homes, we can feel their pain,” said Khin Maung, founder and executive director of the Rohingya Youth Association. (Anadolu Agency)
According to media reports, more than 226,000 people, mostly Buddhists, have been displaced across Rakhine State since late 2018, when clashes flared up between Myanmar’s military and the Arakan Army, a Buddhist rebel militia.
“We all are human beings, and we and those Buddhists in Arakan [Rakhine State] all belong to the same country, irrespective of our ethnic identities,” said Mohammad Kamal Hossain, another Rohingya youth living at the Kutupalong refugee camp, home to around one million refugees. “They once shared our sorrows and helped us during the 2017 massacre [by the Myanmar military]. Now we are doing what we can to support them in their time of need.” (Anadolu Agency)
Rohingya Muslims living in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State, and in Yangon, the former capital of Myanmar, are also collecting donations to help displaced Buddhists in the conflict zone. In early July, Rohingya Muslims in Sittwe donated 300,000 Myanmar kyat (US$233). According to media reports, the humanitarian aid being offered by the Rohingya is helping to heal rifts and build trust between the two communities.
“Since the conflicts in 2012, we can see that relationships are being strengthened,” said Khine Kaung San of the Wan Lark Foundation. “[Rohingya] are showing sympathy for the oppressed Rakhine people and this is a good sign.” (Radio Free Asia)
“These kinds of donations are helping to smooth the original problems between the two groups. Trust can now grow stronger,” said San. (Radio Free Asia)
Maung appealed to the international community to take the necessary steps to restore peace in Rakhine State and rehabilitate all displaced people, Rohingya and Buddhists alike.
“For centuries, we [Rohingya Muslims and Buddhists] lived together peacefully in Arakan [Rakhine State]. We are determined to return to our homeland and bring back those days of peace and harmony,” said Khin Maung of the Rohingya Youth Association. (Anadolu Agency)
Rohingya Do Their Bit for Buddhists in Myanmar Conflict (Anadolu Agency)
Rohingya Refugees, Workers Raise Funds to Help Ethnic Rakhines Displaced by War (Radio Free Asia)
Rohingya Refugees Raise Money to Support Buddhists Displaced by Myanmar Conflict (Daily Sabah)