Recent upsurge in violence has forced about 270,000 Rohingya to cross into Bangladesh, according to UN estimates.
Mohammed Soye, 33, comes from Buthidaung town in Rakhine State, Myanmar, which he fled 10 days ago.
I was a farmer in Buthidaung township, just like every other Rohingya there. We did not have the right to work or the right to education so we could not get jobs in the police, military or other smart offices. We had to work on the farms, or collect bamboo from the forest.
It was a hand-to-mouth existence, somehow, we survived even though we did not have any freedom – we just got through life, one day at a time.
Two weeks ago, the military and the local Buddhist community came into our village, started shooting at us and setting our houses on fire, one by one. My brother was shot in the side of his face and died there. The rest of us had to run, otherwise, we would have been killed as well.
We did not know where we were headed, we just kept walking for 10 days until we finally found Bangladesh.
My mother is 80 years old, paralysed and suffers from asthma, so I had to carry her the whole way. We crossed three rivers by boat while the rest we did on foot. Sometimes, we would come across the military who would start shooting at us and sometimes we would sleep in the forest where there were lots of wild animals.
So, there were many dangerous obstacles but determination kept us moving and eventually we crossed the border. I feel a lot more comfortable now that I am in Bangladesh. Back home, we could end up dead at any moment. Here, our life is safe.
But still, Bangladesh is totally new for us – we don’t know anything about the country, we are illiterate, and we don’t know what we are supposed to be doing here. So if peace returns to Myanmar, we would prefer to go back home, somewhere familiar.
I know the whole world is watching these images of the Rohingya crisis, yet no one is pressuring the Myanmar government to stop the violence being committed against us. Of course, they don’t actually want to find a solution, otherwise, we would have seen it already, but why aren’t international governments putting pressure on them.
My message to the world is that humans are all the same, religions do not make us different. Buddhists have flesh and blood, just like we do. So if they live peacefully and freely in Myanmar, why can’t we – we are all human and all born equal.
As told to Katie Arnold in Unchi Prank new refugee camp in Chittagong, Bangladesh.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
The plight of Myanmar’s Rohingya
An estimated more than 270,000, mainly women and children, have fled to Bangladesh in the last two weeks as a result of indiscriminate violence against civilian populations carried out by the Myanmar army.
The UN and other human rights organisations have warned that the mass exodus following killings, rapes, and burned villages are signs of “ethnic cleansing“, pleading for the international community to pressure Aung San Suu Kyi and her government to end the violence.