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Rohingya Muslim villagers blockaded in Myanmar’s Rakhine

The photo taken on July 13, 2017 shows members of a Rohingya Muslim family sitting in their house at Maung Hnama village, Buthidaung township in Myanmar's Rakhine state. (AFP photo)

Buddhists in a village in Myanmar’s troubled state of Rakhine have imposed a blockade on hundreds of Rohingya Muslims living in the area, effectively barring them from work and shopping for their basic needs while imposing restrictions on people’s access to drinking water.

Residents of Zay Di Pyin said on Tuesday that about 700 Rohingya had been blockaded in their neighborhood since late July.

Monitors and aid workers also confirmed the account. They said entry points to the neighborhood had been blocked with a fence and Muslims had no access to a market and a pond used as a source of drinking water.

The blockade is the latest to come from a harsh crackdown on the Rohingya, a community of about one million people who live mostly in northern parts of Rakhine but are also scattered in areas dominated by Buddhists.

Since October last year, when the Buddhist-dominated government blamed the killing of seven policemen on fighters from the Rohingya community, Muslims have been exposed to some unprecedented violence by security forces and mobs.

Tens of thousands have been displaced, mostly into the neighboring Bangladesh, and people continue to recount stories of beheading and rape committed against members of the community. The United Nations has warned that some cases of violence in Rakhine may have amounted to a systematic form of ethnic cleansing.

The photo taken on July 13, 2017 shows Muslims at Ngayantchaung village, Buthidaung township in Myanmar's Rakhine state. (AFP photo)

Residents of Zay Di Pyin said the blockade on the village began after a Buddhist man from a nearby village went missing in late July, the same period when three Rohingya Muslims were found dead in the area.

“They accused us of killing the missing Rakhine person and blocked us from going out because of that,” said a Rohingya on condition of anonymity.

Other residents said Muslims had been also blocked from praying inside their mosque, located outside the blockaded neighborhood, while Buddhists prevent the Rohingya from going to work in a nearby river jetty.

Police denied that a full blockade had been imposed in Zay Di Pyin, saying that Buddhists were only restricting the amount of food the Rohingya could buy. It said the Rohingya were themselves afraid to go out.

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