"If we don't have letters and paperwork showing we took part — that we are Bengali — we can't leave," he said.
Most worrying to many, the government has largely stood by as Buddhist extremists have targeted Rohingya, sometimes with machetes and bamboo clubs, saying they pose a threat to the country's culture and traditions.
Almost all Rohingya were excluded from a U.N.-funded nationwide census earlier this year, the first in three decades, because they did not want to register as Bengalis. And Thein Sein is considering a "Rakhine Action Plan" that would make people who identify themselves as Rohingya not only ineligible for citizenship but candidates for detainment and possible deportation.
In 2012, Buddhist extremists killed up to 280 people and displaced tens of thousands of others. About 140,000 people of those forced from their homes continue to languish in crowded displacement camps further south, outside Sittwe, the Rakhine state capital.
Many villages were placed under lockdown, with police checkpoints set up to make sure only those who have cooperated could leave, more than a dozen residents confirmed in telephone interviews with The Associated Press.