The Fires in Myanmar

All photos by Stephen Wallace.

Her scarred face was dimly lit in the small hut that was provided by the United Nations.   She was anxious to tell her story.  It came out of her in an impassioned torrent that could not be slowed.   I just sat there, stunned, wishing I could tell her something to ease her anguish; something to make her forget.

I was in a Rohingya refugee camp near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh.    The woman with the scarred face was Rohingya. The Rohingya is an ethnic group in Myanmar that has been the subject of many recent worldwide reports.  Both the New York Times and the BBC had been writing extensively about the Rohingya fleeing for their lives into Bangladesh as the Myanmar Army burned down their villages in southwest Myanmar.

Doctors without Borders estimated 6,700 had been killed since last August.  Horror stories were being recounted daily, straight out of the mouths of the Rohingya as they flowed into Bangladesh, by the hundreds of thousands.

The scarred woman’s name is Momatz.  She lived in Myanmar until the Myanmar military started to burn the homes in other nearby Rohingya villages.   She and her husband had heard the military was heading toward her village.   They were packing to flee when a Buddhist government official arrived in her village to reassure her and her neighbors they had nothing to worry about.  The official said he would protect their village.   The official told them to stay.  He told them they would be…

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