Buddhist flags hang limply from bamboo poles at the entrance to Koe Tan Kauk, a "model" village for ethnic Rakhine migrants shuttled north to repopulate an area once dominated by Rohingya Muslims. The new arrivals are moving to parts of Rakhine state mostly "cleared" of its Rohingya residents, whose villages were bulldozed and reduced to muddy stains on a landscape of lush farmland. The Rakhine migrants, who come from the poor but relatively stable south, are, for now, few in number. But they carry great expectations as the pioneers of a donor-led "Rakhinization" plan to upend the demography of the once majority-Muslim area.
The recent violent expulsion from the country of Muslim Rohingya can be seen as an extreme example of the drive by central authorities to expunge any perceived threat to their dominance and stamp a Burman imprint on vast areas where minorities live. The United Nations calls it a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing."
Nearly 700,000 Rohingya have been driven from northern Rakhine into Bangladesh since August 25 last year by a Myanmar army offensive against Muslim militants. Another 300,000 Rohingya were pushed out from the south and center of Rakhine by army campaigns stretching back to the late 1970s.
Myanmar vigorously denies the allegations and says refugees are welcome to return. But so far it has agreed to allow back only 374 of 8,000 refugees whose names have been put forward for the initial phase of repatriation. Many traumatized Rohingya in Cox's Bazar camps are also refusing to be repatriated to Rakhine where holding camps and hostile neighbors await them.
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