More than 620,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh from Burma’s Rakhine state in the last three months. At least 40,000 unaccompanied children were among those to cross the border, some presenting with bullet wounds. Nearly 60 per cent of Muslim villages in the north of Rakhine have been partially or wholly burned down. Survivors have accused Burma’s military of indiscriminate murder and sexual violence. The army carried out a devastating crackdown after Rohingya militant attacks on security posts in late August.
Burma’s decades-old regime of pre-publication newspaper censorship was dismantled in 2012. Three years later, ahead of the election that brought Aung San Suu Kyi to power, ten journalists were in prison. According to an Amnesty International report, Burmese journalists were labouring under a new ‘climate of fear’. ‘We don’t have any safety,’ the reporter Lawi Weng told the Amnesty researchers. The authorities ‘can arrest us, they can take us to court anytime.’ Lawi, a former colleague of mine and one of Burma’s most talented reporters, was arrested late last month.