Rohingya Continue to Flee West Burma in Thousands

Rohingya people perennially leave their homes and families in Burma and Bangladesh where they face extreme discrimination and are denied citizenship. (Photo: Reuters)

RANGOON–Thousands of people have fled from Burma’s restive Arakan State and neighboring Bangladesh in the first week of this month alone, the UN refugee agency reported, warning that the plight of displaced persons in the region continues to grow more severe.

More than 2,000 people left the region on smugglers’ boats in the first week of the year, most likely to other countries in Southeast Asia, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a news briefing on Friday in Geneva.

That adds to an estimated 13,000 people who left the Bay of Bengal on smugglers’ boats in 2012, UNHCR said, with at least 485 still missing or believed to be dead after four reported boat accidents.

“It is unclear how many actually make it to their final destinations, where they often risk arrest, detention and possible refoulement through deportation to Myanmar [Burma],” UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards said in the news briefing, according to a statement released later by the agency. He was referring to an international customary law of non-refoulement that says migrants should not be returned to countries where they could be subject to persecution or human rights abuses.

Arakan State, in western Burma, was the site of severe sectarian violence last year between local Buddhists and Muslims. The United Nations estimates that more than 100 people were killed and more than 115,000 displaced in clashes beginning in June.

Tensions have eased since then, but tens of thousands of people, mostly Rohingya Muslims, continue to live in overcrowded camps in the state where food and other basic staples are in short supply.

The UNHCR report on Friday came the same day that about 700 Rohingya migrants were rescued from alleged human traffickers in southern Thailand.

The migrants said they had traveled voluntarily to Thailand as part of their journey to a third country, the Associated Press reported, adding that Thai authorities planned to deport the group back to Burma.

Edwards urged countries in Southeast Asia to keep their borders open to Rohingya migrants and others seeking asylum.

“UNHCR continues to seek access to individuals arriving by boat who are arrested and detained by government authorities,” he said, adding that the refugee agency had asked Thai authorities for access to newly-arrived migrants from Burma but were still waiting for a response.

An estimated 800,000 Rohingya Muslims live in Burma, mostly in Arakan State, according to UN estimates. The government does not grant them citizenship or recognize them as an official ethnic group, and although many Rohingya families have lived in the country for generations, locals often view them as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

In Bangladesh, Rohingya Muslims also face discrimination and are widely seen as a strain on limited resources.

In July, the Bangladeshi government ordered aid groups to stop helping Rohingya who were fleeing from violence in Burma.

7 Responses to Rohingya Continue to Flee West Burma in Thousands

  1. How do you know if they were from West Myanmar? The Bengalese are cheating you ever like in the history. They might come from Bangladesh, but you guys from Irrawaddy are acting their lobbyists, but not journalists at all. Shame on you, man!!!

    • Indeed they are Bengali. The name Rohingya is newly created term. The Rakhines know best. We also know about it well. Goats and dogs don’t get along. Rakhines and Bengali do not get along. If these Bengali people prefer to live in Malaysia, I will arrange boats for them because their fellow muslim Malaysians are suitable to receive them.

  2. The basic nature of God’s Justice:
    GALATIANS 6: 7-9 (KJV)
    7: Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
    8: For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
    9: And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.

  3. More than one hundred thousand Bengali from Rakhine state were already in Malaysia since before 2011. Recent violence in the region is not the main reason these people are heading abroad. Muslim nations are assisting them now in Rakhine state but they will keep searching a better place. For this reason, the Rakhine or the Burmese junta must not be blamed.

  4. Incomplete and unsatisfactory solution to failure of humanity from BOTH sides. Nothing to do with religion. It is sheer pig-headedness.

  5. Your comment should alos apply for 2008 Cyclone nargis victims, 1988 killings on Rangoon Street, killings in Kachin state,misery in Karen State, etc..

    Blaming the victim or justifying the atrocity will bear no fruits.. Try to give some remedy to reduce atocities rather than pushing the drowning victims deeper to the sea!!

  6. Of course they will continue fleeing because the Rakhine people around their environment are not like human being. Do u all think this people will stop making violence with the Rohingyas? Do u also think the aid from the Muslims countries are well enough for the Rohigyas? Many people are dieing day by day without food and shelters in the current highly cold season. So what u think they should flee or not.

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