MYEBON, Myanmar (Reuters) – Buddhist villagers in relatively peaceful parts of Myanmar’s Rakhine state are enforcing a system of local apartheid that punishes people trading with minority Muslims, fuelling fears that violence in the far northwest could spread to new areas.
Ethnic Rakhines, who form the majority in central parts of the state, have set up committees in several districts that have meted out sanctions ranging from fines to public beatings and expulsions. They say the measures are necessary to protect their communities from Rohingya Muslim militants.
Muslim residents say they are being cut off from essential supplies and accuse authorities of turning a blind eye. Aid workers fear thousands will attempt to escape via perilous sea routes to Thailand and Malaysia when the monsoon rains abate.