Rohingya: The political refugees face discrimination and harsh treatment wherever they go

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The historical backgrounds of Arakan ironically implied as evidences that the existence of Rohinga Muslims in Arakan is for centuries . But They claimed as world`s most oppressed ethnic minority which is unbelievable to all instantly. In practical, the Rohingyas are victims of religious and racial discrimination in a Buddhist majority country for why at least 50% of the total Rohingya population were compelled to refuge in other countries as political refugees. Without a fundamental solution for the Rohingya not only in countries where they seek asylum but at their origin, there is no apparent end to this humanitarian crisis.

The Rohingya people of Burma an ethnic group existing in a state of national Limbo, are one of the most severely affected communities living under the military regime in a country where human rights abuse and suffering is the norm. The systematic human rights abuses towards the Rohingya are committed with intent to destroy this particular minority community. The Rohingya are denied even the most basic rights. They are not considered citizens and have no passports. They are not allowed to travel from northern Rakhine state to other parts of Myanmar. They are not even allowed to travel from village to village within the state without permission. The ongoing travel restrictions imposed by the government have a particularly onerous impact on young people seeking education and employment opportunities outside the state. The Rohingya living in the north of Rakhine State of Myanmar are legally obliged to purchase expensive marriage permits, unlike the rest of the population. Children being born out of marriage often results in high informal fines or imprisonment and a two child only policy applies. Since 1948 about 1.5 million Rohingya people have either been expelled or have had to flee the country to escape persecution. Most of them are found in Bangladesh, Pakistan, KSA, UAE and Malaysia. They are vulnerable without any status in those countries. Neither civil society Organizations nor UN bodies and other international Organizations properly addressed this issue since last two decades.

Activist Chris Lewa of the Arakan Project, “which advocates for the Rohingya, says ( in Feb.2009) the men’s tales are numbingly familiar. "Arbitrary taxes, forced labor, construction of Buddhist villages in Muslim areas, confiscation of land, religious persecution. And in that situation, I think a lot of people just hope to flee and find a better life somewhere else," Lewa says. That is fine with Myanmar’s military rulers, who apparently would like nothing better than to see all the Rohingya gone for good. Human rights workers say that is why the military turns a blind eye to, or even encourages, the smugglers who take the Rohingya out. Human Rights Watch last month urged Myanmar’s neighbors in Southeast Asia to press the military to end their "brutal practices" against the Rohingya. But it is a plea that is likely to fall on deaf ears”.

Eventually, the Rohingya Muslims fled their native land, Arakan to evade persecution of their own government. But they are again becoming victims of discrimination and harsh treatment wherever they reach in the globe particularly in Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Saudi Arabia. First they arrived in Bangladesh and then left for third countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia etc., by holding Bangladesh Passport. But now a days, they are compelled to chose the risky sea route to reach Malaysia via Thailand due to facing difficulties on getting Bangladesh passport. Here is some abuse reports on the stateless Rohingyas in exile.

Irrawaddy News , Nov.7,2009 — “I’ve lost everything in my life and now I can only pray that I don’t get sent back to Burma,” Haziqah, a 27-year-old female Rohingya refugee, told The Irrawaddy from her half-built mud hut in the unofficial Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh. Before coming to the camp, Haziqah lived in the Bandarban Hill Tract, where many Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Burma have settled. She had just given birth at the time, and so was unable to work, but she and her husband managed to survive on the meager wages he earned from odd jobs in the area. However, their hopes of leading a quasi-normal existence were crushed when one morning soldiers from Bangladeshi border force, the BDR, stormed their village, rounded up all the Rohingyas living there, and marched them towards the border. Enroute, she said, the soldiers beat her husband severely and pushed her along, ignoring the one-week-old baby in her arms. When they reached the top of a hill bordering Burma, the soldiers simply gave them a shove to send them back to the country from which they had fled. In the chaos, she was separated from her husband; she later received reports that he had been captured by the Nasaka. Similar stories of brutality at the hands of the Bangladesh Rifles are common among new arrivals at the makeshift camp.

Like Haziqah, many of the women have been separated from their husbands. Since tensions broke out in August between Bangladesh and Burma over the construction of a border fence, arrests and forced repatriation of Rohingya refugees has dramatically increased. In order to escape arrest, many have fled to the unofficial camp, which unlike the UNHCR camp next door, receives no food rations. The Bangladeshi government refuses to accept Rohingya who arrived in the country after 1991 as refugees and instead labels them illegal migrants, leaving them to fend for themselves. As a result of the influx of Rohingya refugees from the “push back” areas, the little food available to the refugees must be shared among more mouths, creating problems in the camps. Unrecognized by the Bangladeshi government, NGOs are unable to provide food for the refugees, leaving them to find work in the nearby area. However, recent arrests at checkpoints, to and from the workplace, have led to many being too afraid to leave the camp to find work.

Guardian (UK) Oct.13, 2009 — Burma’s exiled Muslims – Syed Neaz Ahmad: About 3,000 Rohingya families are awaiting deportation in Saudi prisons, but like the rest of their people, they have nowhere to go. Thousands of Burmese Muslims from Arakan – often called Rohingyas –” were offered a safe haven in Saudi Arabia by the late King Faisal, but with the change in monarch the rules changed too. What was to have been a permanent abode of peace for these uprooted people has now turned into a chamber of horrors. There are about 3,000 families of Burmese Muslims in Mecca and Jeddah prisons awaiting deportation. Women and children are held in separate prisons nearby. The only contact the men have with their wives and children is through mobile phones. But the interesting question is: where will they be sent when they are eventually deported? Burma doesn’t want them. Bangladesh, with a large population and poor economy, doesn’t have the inclination or the ability to handle a refugee population of this size. The Rohingyan refugees in Bangladesh are having a rough time as it is. Other Muslim countries play silent spectators.

Pakistan’s offer to accept some of the Rohingyas – those awaiting deportation in Saudi prisons – is seen as a mere diplomatic exercise. Against the background of Islamabad’s shabby treatment of some 300,000 stranded Pakistanis living in camps in Bangladesh, Rohingya inmates look at the Pakistani overture with suspicion. The people who call themselves Rohingyas are Muslims from what is known as the Mayu frontier area, the Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships of Arakan (Rakhine) state, a province isolated in the western part of the country across the Naaf river which forms the boundary between Burma and Bangladesh. After Burma gained independence from the UK in 1948, the ethnic and religious group first favoured joining Pakistan but later called for an autonomous region instead. The Burmese government, however, has consistently refused to recognize the Rohingyas as citizens. According to Amnesty International, in 1978 more than 200,000 Rohingyas fled to Bangladesh, following the Burmese army’s Operation Nagamin. Most – it is claimed – were eventually repatriated, but about 15,000 refused to return.

In 1991, a second wave of about a quarter of a million Rohingyas fled Burma to Bangladesh. Some Rohingyas have resided in Malaysia since the early 1990s, but continue to be rounded up in immigration operations and handed over to human traffickers at the Thai-Malaysia border. Conditions in Arakan state continue to deteriorate, increasing the livelihood of further outflows into neighboring countries. It’s an irony that countries in Asia and elsewhere – particularly Muslim countries – have shown little or no desire to help ease the situation. The UNHCR spokeswoman in Asia, Kitty Mckinsey says: "No country has really taken up their cause. Look at the Palestinians, for example, they have a lot of countries on their side. The Rohingyans do not have any friends in the world." The late King Faisal’s decision to offer them a permanent abode in Saudi Arabia was a noble gesture. However, later Saudi rulers have found the Burmese Muslims a thorn in their side. With strict regulation on their employment and movement within the kingdom, they are easy targets for extortion and torture. There are said to be about 250,000 Burmese Muslims in Saudi Arabia –” the majority living in Mecca’s slums (Naqqasha and Kudai). They sell vegetables, sweep streets and work as porters, carpenters and unskilled labour. The fortunate ones rise to become drivers. In Saudi Arabia it is not uncommon for poor Rohingyas to marry off their young (sometimes underage) daughters to old and sick Saudis in the hope of getting "official favours". But this hasn’t worked for many. Rohingyan wives of Saudi men, who have to survive as second class human beings on the periphery of society. Those whom I met in Jeddah prisons seem to have accepted the situation as a fait accompli. But it is unfortunate that they are being made to suffer in a country considered to be the citadel of Islam.

Boat people cast adrift, admits Thai PM, Tomallard in Jakarta, 14/2/2009; Boats loaded of Rohingyas have been towed out to sea and allowed to "drift" by Thai authorities, reversing weeks of denials of mistreatment of the Muslim minority from Burma. More than 1000 Rohingya boat people are believed to have been herded into wooden boats with no engines and left at sea over the past seven weeks. Hundreds have been rescued or washed up to shore in Indonesia and the Andaman Islands, showing scars from alleged beatings and saying they were left with little food and water to survive. Hundreds more cannot be accounted for, and are presumed drowned. "There are attempts, I think, to let these people drift to other shores," the Thai leader, Abhisit Vejjajiva, told CNN in an interview aired yesterday. "I have asked whether people are aware of such practices. The one thing that is clear that, when these practices do occur, it is done on the understanding that there is enough food and water supplied." By conceding that the boatloads of Rohingya have been allowed to drift, Mr Abhisit has tacitly acknowledged that the boats do not have engines. Survivors of the practice have detailed how engines were stripped from their vessels before being towed out to sea. Mr Abhisit said his investigation had yet to uncover who was responsible but that he regretted "any losses". The concession follows international condemnation of the practice, and criticism and expressions of deep concern from the governments of Indonesia and Australia about the incidents. There have been calls, too, for Burma’s military dictatorship to treat the Rohingya more humanely, amid allegations from groups such as Amnesty International that they are stripped of their land, beaten and forced to pay high tax rates. In a statement this month Burma’s Government simply denied the Rohingya exist in Burma.

Conclusion:

There is little question that the Rohingya issue is a humanitarian one. Every effort should be expended in persuading the Myanmar authorities to create the conditions that will allow them to go home. Despite the long period of time which has elapsed since they first were pushed into Bangladesh, there is an urgent need for Dhaka and Yangon to find a solution to the issue. At the same time, for the Bangladesh authorities, it is of critical importance that a strict supervision of Rohingyas, in line with accepted international laws, be undertaken and maintained. One expects that the Bangladesh government is seized of the problem. Its responsibility at this point should be to devise a Rohingya policy that takes into account both the short term and mid term aspects of it. Being a resource-strapped country, Bangladesh cannot afford to house the Rohingyas endlessly. Neither can it have them become its citizens by questionable means. It is quite right that Bangladesh is not in a position to bear the extra refugee pressure because it is a over populated and poor economic country. Rather refugee exodus is a threat to its environment. Nevertheless, we should understand that push back is not a solution to refugee issue. During the liberation war we were also refugees in neighboring countries for why we should sympathize and show compassion to our Muslim brothers those who are living in our country as political refugees and try for a permanent solution to their issue with the coordination of international communities.

In Thailand, the Rohingyas were treated harshly. The boat people arrived in Thailand on way to Malaysia where they were adrifted in to the deep sea by destroying engine and allowing only little food and water. Later they were rescued by Indian Navy in critical situation. At least 30% of the boat people were died on way back due to starvation and thirsty. In Thailand more than 20 Lac registered and unregistered Burmese refugees are living where only few Rohingya refugees were rejected due to religious and racial discrimination. The Rohingyas` main destination is Malaysia and Saudi Arabia because they thought that as Muslim majority and rich countries Malaysia and Saudi Arabia will show compassion to them and give shelter. But they are now totally despaired due to harsh treatment there. They are now realizing that Bangladesh is the only Muslim country which is sheltering them despite it is not in a position to do so. Democracy in Burma is knocking the door. It is optimistic that when a Democratic government is established in Burma near future, the optimum situation will be prevailed in favor of ethnic minorities including the Rohingya as earlier period of 1962 for why the Rohingyas have nothing left except to wait until the dream is materialized. Then the refugee exodus from Burma will be stopped for ever and the Burma Nationals those who were fled the country to evade atrocities of military junta will return to their home land. But the most discriminated Rohingya ethnic minority itself alone is not possible to bring the situation to its favor until the cooperation of world communities including Bangladesh and its people’s sympathy is ensured.

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