By AMBIKA AHUJA and MICHAEL CASEY, Associated Press Writers Ambika Ahuja And Michael Casey, Associated Press Writers – Sat Feb 14, 12:03 pm ET
BANGKOK, Thailand – For generations, the ethnic Muslim Rohingya have endured persecution by the ruling junta of Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country.
The plight of the Indonesia and the ., descendants of Arab traders from the 7th century, gained international attention over the past month after five boatloads of haggard migrants were found in the waters around
But unlike the Kurds or the Palestinians, no one has championed the cause of the Rohingya. Most countries, from Malaysia, see them as little more than a source of cheap labor for the dirtiest and most dangerous jobs.to
“The Rohingya are probably the most friendless people in the world. They just have no one advocating for them at all,” said Kitty McKinsey, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. “Hardly any of them have legal status anywhere in the world.”
There are an estimated 750,000 Rohingya living in Myanmar’s mountainous northern state of Rakhine, which borders Bangladesh. Thousands flee every year, trying to escape a life of abuse that was codified in 1982 with a law that virtually bars them from becoming citizens.
A spokesman for Myanmar’s military government did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment. It has repeatedly denied abusing the Rohingya, though Amnesty International said the junta has described them as less than human. Rights groups have documented widespread abuses, including forced labor, land seizures and rape.
“It was like living in hell,” said Mohamad Zagit, who left after soldiers confiscated his family’s rice farm and then threw him in jail for praying at a local mosque. The 23-year-old spoke from his hospital bed in Thailand, where he had been detained after fleeing Myanmar.
“We have no rights,” said Muhamad Shafirullah, who was among 200 migrants rescued by the Indonesian navy last week. He recalled how he was jailed in Myanmar, his family’s land stolen and a cousin dragged into the jungle and shot dead. “They rape and kill our women. We can’t practice our religion. We aren’t allowed to travel from village to village … It’s almost impossible, even, to get married or go to school.”
Twice since the 1970s, waves of attacks by the military and Buddhist villagers forced hundred of thousands of Rohingya to flee over the border to Bangladesh, a Muslim country whose people speak a similar language. Many have since been repatriated, but 200,000 still work there as illegal migrants and another 28,000 live in squalid refugee camps.
Violence against Rohingya women is common, and they face the threat of prison because of their illegal status, said Chris Lewa, coordinator of the Bangkok-based Arakan Project, an advocacy group for the Rohingya. Thousands of Rohingya have taken to the seas from Bangladesh in search of better jobs, but ended up drowning or at the mercy of traffickers.
For years, the Rohingya traveled to the Middle East for work, with nearly a half million ending up in Saudi Arabia.
But in recent years — partly because of bureaucratic hurdles faced by Muslims following 9/11 — many now try to go instead by boat to Thailand and then overland to, another Islamic nation.
But even those who make it to Malaysia then struggle find good jobs and quickly discover that, there too, intolerance is growing. Many of the 14,300 Rohingya in Malaysia live in cramped, rundown apartments in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, and face the constant threat of deportation, community leaders said. If caught, the migrants can be caned and imprisoned for up to five years.
Yet most refugee advocates expect Rohingya migrants will keep coming.
“My 14 children rely on me. They have no safety, no food, nothing,” said Mohamad Salim, a 35-year-old, bearded fisherman who also was detained and hospitalized in Thailand and begged to be allowed to continue onto Malaysia.
“What will they eat? How will they live if I don’t find work?” he said, his voice trembling.
Associated Press writer Irwan Firdaus contributed to this report from Idi Rayeuk, Indonesia; Casey in Bangkok; Ahuja in ; Julia Zappei in Malaysia and Farid Hossain in Bangladesh contributed to this report.
SHAHRUL PESHAWAR – The Myanmar Junta is adopting the same policy used by Thailand towards muslim. In Thailand they accept Muslim group known as Thai Muslim, but treating double standard for other Muslim such as the Malay. As per Myanmar, they too accept Muslim in the country but not a Rohingya Muslim, it is a pity to them. Rohingyan Muslim is not a new group of races, they had existed much earlier and they had formed their own dynasties back in 16th Century and even had various diplomatic missions abroad.