The Biggest Refugee Camp Braces for Rain: ‘This Is Going to Be a Catastrophe’ – The New York Times

The world’s largest refugee camp, a temporary home to more than half a million people that sprawls precariously across barren hills in southeastern Bangladesh, faces a looming disaster as early as April when the first storms of the monsoon season hit, aid workers warn. “It’s going to be landslides, flash floods, inundation,” said Tommy Thompson, chief of emergency support and response for the World Food Program. “It’s going to be a very, very challenging wet season. That’s if we don’t have a cyclone.”

“But then, in a matter of weeks, as refugees poured in by the tens of thousands, trees were hacked away. Canals were dug. Bamboo-and-tarp shacks went up. More trees were cut as refugees scrambled to find firewood.

The hills, where elephants recently roamed, are now bare. Even the roots have been pulled out, leaving nothing to hold the parched soil together as rainwater washes downhill, potentially taking tents and people with it and quickly inundating low-lying settlements. The United Nations says 100,000 refugees are at acute risk from landslides and floods.

The early rains — known in Bengali as kalboishakhi, which translates loosely as the storms of an “evil summer” — are a precursor to the full-on monsoons. They strike when the soil is still dry and especially susceptible to mudslides. The only warning of their approach is usually hot winds that send the dry earth of summer swirling through the air.”

Source: The Biggest Refugee Camp Braces for Rain: ‘This Is Going to Be a Catastrophe’ – The New York Times

DL: It is too bad that these 600,000 Rohingya refugees were forced or allowed to deforest the area they were placed in. Now they have turned that piece of dessert into a probable death camp when the monsoon rains appear. I need firewood now, versus, I need these trees to prevent flooding later, is a choice I  hope that I never have to make.

Myanmar Is Not a Simple Morality Tale – by Roger Cohen – The New York Times

“This was not a handover of power. It was a highly controlled, and easily reversible, cession of partial authority.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s decisions must be seen in this context. She is playing a long game for real democratic change. “She is walking one step by one step in a very careful way, standing delicately between the military and the people,” said U Chit Khaing, a prominent businessman in Yangon. Perhaps she is playing the game too cautiously, but there is nothing in her history to suggest she’s anything but resolute.

The problem is she’s a novice in her current role. As a politician, not a saint, it must be said that Aung San Suu Kyi has proved inept. This is scarcely surprising. She lived most of her life abroad, was confined on her return, and has no prior experience of governing or administering.

You don’t endure a decade and a half of house arrest, opt not to see your dying husband in England and endure separation from your children without a steely patriotic conviction. This is her force, a magnetic field. It can also be blinding. “Mother Suu knows best,” said David Scott Mathieson, an analyst based in Yangon. “Except that she’s in denial of the dimensions of what happened.”

Source: Myanmar Is Not a Simple Morality Tale – The New York Times

My Interview With a Rohingya Refugee: What Do You Say to a Woman Whose Baby Was Thrown Into a Fire? – by Jeffrey Gettleman – NYT

“As I walked out of the refugee camp, my phone rang. The instant I said hello, my wife could hear it in my voice.“What’s wrong?” she asked.“I just finished the worst interview of my life,” I said.

I was standing near the border of Myanmar and Bangladesh, where half a million Rohingya people, probably one of the most unwanted ethnic groups on the planet, fled after government massacres in Myanmar. I had just said goodbye to a young woman named Rajuma and watched her — a frail figure in a red veil — disappear into a crowd with one of the most horrible stories I had ever heard.

I’ve covered genocide in Sudan and children being blown apart in Iraq. I’ve been dispatched to earthquakes, hurricanes, civil wars, international wars, insurgencies and famines. As foreign correspondents, this is what we do, rush into the world’s biggest disasters. In 20 years of doing this, I’ve become a specialist in despair.But Rajuma’s story stopped me.”

David Lindsay:

This news reporting lifts Jefrey Gettleman up to a new level, in my awareness, up to Nicholas Kristof.
Thank you Jeffrey for this report.

Here are the top comments. I read deep into the comments section, for solace.


Tucson 1 hour ago

This is what genocide looks like, sounds like, feels like to witness.

And on the same online front page of the NYTimes, we are treated to the story of big game “hunting” ranches in Texas where the extremely wealthy can go to kill animals and call it love.

Anger, hatred, dehumanization, disrespect for life…is contagious. We are seeing it everywhere, and our current President is aiding and abetting this social turn.

The Rohingya must get true sanctuary somewhere, and we must help them–all of us on this planet must help. Otherwise, we have reached a state where all of us are dehumanized. Not humane, and therefore not human. Compassion is a human birthright–having, expressing it, receiving it. It is genetically encoded. That we are in an era of so many instances where compassion is replaced with anger and hatefulness, is just appalling beyond words.

P. Dutta

Berlin, Germany 1 hour ago

Thank you for covering these horrific events. Journalists like you go to places that everyone else turns a blind eye to. ‘Ami Dukkhito’ doesn’t actually mean ‘I’m sorry’ in Bengali though. It literally means ‘I’m sad’. It is an appropriate thing to say under the circumstances as we don’t have an equivalent word to ‘sorry’ in Bengali. ‘Ami Dukkhito’ implies that you share her pain. Please do keep shining the light of awareness on these darkest of places.


is a trusted commenter Salt Lake City, UT 3 hours ago

Thank you for telling the world about Rajuma and the murder of her baby. Something good will come of this telling because there are still very good people in this world who express kindness all around us.

Vera Chasan

USA 1 hour ago

Thank you for a beautifully written story – and for bearing witness to this. I can’t begin to fathom the depth of pain Ms. Rajuma must know, but I weep for her and her family. I wish I believed that something good will come of this story – and perhaps, for some readers, we are more sensitive to the Rohingya plight and more ready to offer support.


NEW YORK 1 hour ago

Anybody cares what is happening in Rohingya ethnic cleansing ? The answer is NO. Because there is no oil or gas or mineral resources for western economic powerhouse countries .Even UN is very quiet about this genocide. Because Rohingya people are extremely poor Muslims. I am glad that the NYT publishes some news of atrocities there now and then. Bangladesh, a densely populated country is one of the poorest in the world. I thank the government and the people of Bangladesh for opening their door to shelter these unfortunate people with their limited resource. Some Muslim countries, specially Turkey came forward to help them. What happened to other oil rich Muslim countries? India is not helping that much as expected. China is helping Myanmar with arms and money to expedite this cleansing process. Where is humanity ? Where are compassionate heart of good human beings? Where are Buddhist religious teachings of love and AHIMSA (abstain from killings) to attain Nirvana? May God help these poor people.

A Nobel Peace Prize Winner’s Shame – by Nicholas Kristof – NYT

“For the last three weeks, Buddhist-majority Myanmar has systematically slaughtered civilians belonging to the Rohingya Muslim minority, forcing 270,000 to flee to neighboring Bangladesh — with Myanmar soldiers shooting at them even as they cross the border.

“The Buddhists are killing us with bullets,” Noor Symon, a woman carrying her son, told a Times reporter. “They burned houses and tried to shoot us. They killed my husband by bullet.”Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the widow who defied Myanmar’s dictators, endured a total of 15 years of house arrest and led a campaign for democracy, was a hero of modern times. Yet today Daw Suu, as the effective leader of Myanmar, is chief apologist for this ethnic cleansing, as the country oppresses the darker-skinned Rohingya and denounces them as terrorists and illegal immigrants.

And “ethnic cleansing” may be an understatement. Even before the latest wave of terror, a Yale study had suggested that the brutality toward the Rohingya might qualify as genocide. The U.S. Holocaust Museum has also warned that a genocide against the Rohingya may be looming.”

Horrible story, great writing.

Here are two comments I recommended.

T Townsend

Ann Arbor, MI 1 day ago

Nick, thank you for your bold reporting on this and the crises in Yemen, Angola, and numerous others. Your work is so important.


is a trusted commenter Boston 1 day ago

By now, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi – I used to refer her as ‘Daw’ instead of ‘Ms’ – has had more than her share of free passes. Not anymore.

I have no qualm of Henry Kissinger getting a Nobel Peace Prize. It might be a bit disingenuous but he did end the Vietnam War, even if with a ‘thud.’ But Ms Aung San is far more disappointing. For a while, people said she was new and might need her footings. But the Rohingya problem is nothing new. And allowing a Buddhist country to descent into hell is just breathtaking, in a very bad way. They are just a bunch of wrathful spirits. If Ms Aung San can’t speak out for them now, who is she supposed to protect?

NYT Pick


Cascadia 1 day ago

Myanmar is still a military dictatorship. The civilian government, including Suu Kyi, has no real power. She knows that if she criticizes the military leaders they may eliminate the civilian government, which is just for show anyway.

She should do so anyway. It is the right thing to do, even though in the short run it will only have negative consequences.


Myanmar Intensifies Its Abuse of Rohingya – The New York Times

“Myanmar’s military has intensified scorched-earth tactics that were of such “devastating cruelty” last year and early this year that the United Nations said they most likely constituted “crimes against humanity.” The Rohingya are denied basic rights, including citizenship in the country of their birth. Their persecution has been so egregious that hundreds of thousands have fled or languish in camps.”

Aung San Suu Kyi’s Wishful Peace – The New York Times

“YANGON — Early this month, just days after a round of major talks in the capital, Naypyidaw, fighting broke out between the armed forces and the ethnic Kachin Independence Army in the northern state of Kachin. Ahead of a clearing operation, the Myanmar military airdropped pamphlets ordering residents of Tanai township to leave and warned that anyone who stayed would be seen as cooperating with the K.I.A. Thousands of displaced people are reported to still be stranded in the conflict zone.”

Villagers in Myanmar Describe the Destructive Power of China’s Building Frenzy – by Carol Giacomo – NYT

“I heard this story firsthand from five farmers who traveled hours by boat, foot and motorbike from their even smaller and poorer village, Kapaing Chaung, to talk with me about their experiences when the China National Petroleum Corporation and the government of Myanmar, formerly Burma, jointly built an oil and gas pipeline from China across Myanmar to Kyaukphyu, on the Bay of Bengal.

The villagers are members of a local “watch committee” backed by two rights activist groups, the Natural Resource Governance Institute and Paung Ku, to monitor the operation. The committee is a weak but admirable attempt at community action in a country where people are reluctant to complain and nobody cared much about the farmers whose land was vital to the project but who were powerless to defend their interests.”

In Myanmar, a Wife’s Wrenching Decision – Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times

“SITTWE, Myanmar — How much should you sacrifice to save your husband’s life?And how much hardship do you inflict on your son to rescue your husband?Those are the questions Jano Begum faced. Jano, 22, and her husband, Robi Alom, 30, are among the more than one million Muslims who belong to the Rohingya minority in Myanmar, subjected to an ethnic cleansing that a Yale study suggests may amount to genocide.”

Source: In Myanmar, a Wife’s Wrenching Decision – The New York Times