herald

Sunday 4 December 2016

Refugees 'left to wither and die', says star Dillon

American actor Matt Dillon has put a star-powered spotlight on Myanmar's long-persecuted Rohingya Muslims during a visit to a camp in the Asian country.

It was "heartbreaking," he said after meeting a young man with a raw, open leg wound from a road accident and no means to treat it.

Mothers carrying malnourished babies stood listlessly outside row after row of identical bamboo huts, with toddlers playing nearby in the chalky white dust.

Suffering

"No one should have to live like this, people are really suffering," said Dillon, one of the first celebrities to get a look at what life is like for Rohingya in the western state of Rakhine.

"They are being strangled slowly, they have no hope for the future and nowhere to go."

Rohingya have been victims of state-sponsored discrimination for decades, but conditions started deteriorating three years ago when radical monks began speaking out against the religious minority.

Hundreds have been killed by machete-wielding mobs and a quarter million others now live under apartheid-like conditions in camps or have fled by boat. Hundreds of dehydrated, hungry Rohingya have washed onto Southeast Asian shores in recent weeks.

Human rights groups have warned that the persecution could potentially escalate into genocide.

"There's a very ominous feeling here," said Dillon, who has also visited refugee camps in Sudan and the Congo. "I've been to some places where the threats of violence seemed more imminent. Here it's something else. It feels more like people are going to be left to wither away and die."

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