“Military council issued public warning of the cyclone. But they did not ask Rohingya people to move to other high-land areas. They have no rights to enter city area. So, the death toll increases.”

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More than 400 Rohingya people reportedly died from Cyclone Mocha in Rakhine state. However, the military council confirmed causality at more than 100 who did not move to other areas before the cyclone.

This interview with Ro Aung Naing Soe, member of Arakan   Rohingya Society Peace and Human Rights (ARSPH), is about the reason for high death toll of Rohingya in Cyclone Mocha, challenges of cyclone-affected Rohingya, support of military council and demand to international community.

TLT: Could you talk about the prevailing challenges of cyclone-stricken Rohingya people?

Ro Aung Naing Soe: They are seriously suffering shortages of water and temporary accommodation. They received very little and insufficient portion of foods from donors. They had to drink saline water after the cyclone, causing diarrhea and illness. All of their property, goldwares  and household items were reportedly lost in the flood. They have nothing in their hands. They have to totally rely on the donors. They face starvation unless they get relief aid from the donors.

TLT: Why did many Rohingya people die in the cyclone?

Ro Aung Naing Soe: Military council issued public warning of the cyclone. But they did not ask Rohingya people to move to other high-land areas. They have no access to city area. So, the death toll was high. I learnt that the military council distributed a few shares of basic food supplies.

TLT: The military council insisted the death toll of Rohingya people is about 100. Is it correct in the ground situation?

Ro Aung Naing Soe: We have learnt that the military council announced the Rohingya death toll at just over 100. However, information and media reports have shown over 400 Rohingya people died or are missing. Rohingya refugees were held at the camps since 2012 due to some conflicts. As you know, they were prohibited from going to Sittway city. They just have to stay at the camp for security reason. The military council informed them about the cyclone. But the military did not manage to relocate them to safe places. So, the death toll was high.

 TLT: Commodity prices are skyrocketing. What do you think the rehabilitation management of the military council?

Ro Aung Naing Soe: Commodity prices are surging across Rakine State. If the military council takes into consideration the wellbeing of civilians and humanity for people, they should allow donations of any international organizations or local organizations. Their blockage to humanitarian assistance has some reasons. During Cyclone Nargis in Ayeyawaddy region, many international organizations offered their assistance. But no one was allowed for relief aid. Its repercussions are still felt among people in Ayeyawaddy region. Similarly, we have consideration for all cyclone affected people who turned into homelessness, either local Rakhine or Rohingya people.  The military council should take immediate actions to provide relief aid and carry out rehabilitation works for the victims.  However, they have restricted NGOS or other civil society organizations in providing assistance. 

TLT: What do you want to speak out to international community for Rohingya?

Ro Aung Naing Soe:  I request international community, including the United Nations, to address challenges of Rohingya people, and to help cyclone-affected people in Rahine state to have access to relief aid and rehabilitation program.

Than Lwin Times

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