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Fear And Isolation For Myanmar's Remaining Rohingya


Rohingya residents drying fish on a farm in Shan Taung village on the outskirts of Mrauk U township in Rakhine State close to the Bangladesh border

By the twisted standards of Myanmar's Rakhine state, Abdullah is one of its more fortunate Rohingya residents

The 34-year-old is alive, his village is intact and he is able to make a living -- albeit a meagre one -- in his homeland as a farmer.


Abdullah's Rohingya Muslim minority are disappearing fast from Myanmar.


Some one million of them -- around two-thirds of their entire stateless community -- have been forced over the border to refugee camps in Bangladesh by successive waves of persecution.


The latest has expelled some 700,000 Rohingya since August, when the army launched a campaign of violence that the UN says amounted to "ethnic cleansing".


Abdullah's village of Shan Taung is near the temple-studded town of Mrauk U, not far from the epicentre of the most recent crackdown in northern Rakhine but partly sheltered from its worst excesses by a range of forested mountains.


He is among the 500,000 Rohingya that the UN estimates remain in Myanmar, some confined to camps after previous rounds of violence while others are spared by wealth, luck or -- like the villages in Abdullah's area -- simply by isolation from the latest military campaign.


Yet their lives are still shaped by tension and fear in a mainly-Buddhist country that has methodically stripped the Muslim minority of legal rights and security.


The status of the Rohingya in Rakhine hangs by a thread in the wake of the army crackdown, which has seen Myanmar troops and ethnic Rakhine mobs accused of burning Rohingya villages, and of raping and murdering their residents.


Shan Taung, with its 4,500-strong Rohingya population, appears peaceful.


Fishermen dry their catch in the sun, farmers bring in the rice paddy and children play at the side of the road.