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The People Nobody Wants

rohingya refugee campThey say they are caught between a crocodile and a snake.  The Rohingya, amongst the most persecuted of Myanmar’s many persecuted peoples have for years, sought refuge in Bangladesh.  A situation that can be portrayed as a drowning child grasping on to the neck of a starving and drowning adult.  Or, if we’re sticking to their own original metaphor, the situation of the Rohingya is one where they are caught between a crocodile who will drown them and a snake who will suffocate them to death.

The Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for a millennium, but they’re called Muslim outsiders by the Burmese authorities and refused citizenship rights.  So thousands of them fled and continue to flee to neighbouring Bangladesh which has its own not inconsiderable problems.  The government response has been to officially ignore the problem, so most Rohingya refugees are denied the right to refugee status there despite the fact that there are now generations of ethnic Rohingya who were born on Bangladeshi soil and have known no other home.  On several instances, Rohingya living in the camps near Cox Bazar have literally been pushed back into the river by locals and told to swim back where they came from.

According to the medical charity, Medicins Sans Frontieres, there are there are only about 28,000 Rohingya recognized as refugees by the Government of Bangladesh.   But nearly ten times that number are living on the border of half life and half death around the squalid refugee camps.

Their plight has not gone unnoticed by the Western media as you can read here and here.  But the Bangladesh government continues to deny there is a problem or that they are violating human rights in the worst way.  By forcing refugees back to a land where they are sure to be persecuted, Bangladesh is in direct violation of a principle of international refugee law called non re-foulement.

Last year, a thousand refugees who decided to brave the longer route out via Thailand to Malaysia were caught by the Thai navy who removed the engines from their boats and left them to drift out to sea.  A brutal answer to the question of whether they would take in more Burmese refugees than they already have along their northern borders.

The meetings continue, the discussions between government and NGO representatives in nice air-conditioned hotels about the future of the Rohingya, about who’s responsibility they ultimately are. But meanwhile, the medical charity Physicians for Human Rights has published a report today that says that in the unofficial camps, 18% of the children under 5 suffer from acute malnutrition - a number five times higher than that of post earthquake.  Hear author of the report Richard Sollum interviewed by RNW here.

11 Comments on “The People Nobody Wants”

  1. #1 Dev Narayan
    on Mar 17th, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    The plight of the Rohingya’s of Myanmar seems to be very much similar to the plight of the Kashmiri Pundits in India. Hundreds of Kashmiri pundits live in squalid & inhuman conditions in different parts of India. They are not able to return back to their native land due to the threat from the terrorists in Kashmir. They are not able to live a decent life in their present inhuman existence. They too seemed to be caught between a crocodile and a snake. Not many have taken up their cause and still after long years they are living in misery dreaming of going back to their homes in Kashmir and living a normal life! Will they realise their dream soon or become the Rohingyas of India - The People Nobody Wants?!!

  2. #2 jasmin
    on Mar 17th, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Thanks Dev, for writing about Kashmiri Pundits and their miseries. But as you see, nobody is interested in rehabilitating them.For the Western media, Hindus and Sikhs aren’t humans, only Christians and Muslims are. So, Hindus and Sikhs do not deserve human rights, neither in the news nor in the blogs, nor in reality.

  3. #3 Dev Narayan
    on Mar 25th, 2010 at 5:16 am

    Thanks Jasmin for sharing your concern about the Kashmiri Pandits. These are people who have lost everything. These people are driven away ruthlessly from their homes and lands, living very difficult life in other parts of the country and outside. When we talk about Kashmir and Kashmiris, almost all forget the plight of its Pandit community living life in abject poverty and in inhuman surroundings. There is a huge number of these people living like refugees scattered around in different places where they live a life like outsiders.

    I am not sure about what you said about the western media. But even if it is as you said, what they feel about the people over here should not matter much. We do not have to play to anybody’s tunes. We have to take care of ourselves or else no one will. As people looking from outside they express their feelings of what they feel when they observe from outside. I think what outsiders feel shouldn’t make much of a trouble for us to deal with our own problem. :-)

  4. #4 jasmin
    on Mar 25th, 2010 at 12:28 pm

    The Western Media does matter because they influence our foreign policy on Kashmir. US calls the shots in Indo-Pak talks over Kashmir…For the world, Kashmir means-Muslims, which is very tragic and unfair for the Kashmiri Pundits who are internally displaced refugees. Indian government is doing very little to rehabilitate them as they want to please the Muslim vote-bank and the US, who is interested only in Pakistan. Our journalists in India and abroad are not interested in highlighting the plight of Kashmiri Hindus as they want to be seen as secular and pro-Muslim. The people who highlight the interests of Hindus in India and abroad are labelled as Hindu fascists or Hindu fanatics. You are perhaps new to the site, I have to ask RNW to correct the map of India, everytime they put it on their site, because they either show Jammu and Kashmir in Pakistan or as a separate state. BTW, I am a Kashmiri Pundit!

  5. #5 Dev Narayan
    on Mar 25th, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    Yes Jasmin I am rather new to RNW site. I am happy to know that you are a Kashmiri Pandit. But I am deeply saddened by the plight of hundreds and thousands of Kashmiri Pandits losing their homes and everything they loved about Kashmir. I was observing your comments around here and was, indeed, intrigued. On further close observation I could make out the subtleness of RNWs bias against India. I checked the favourites blog links here on South Asia Wired and in Teeth Maestro I was shocked to see India bashing going on as if sponsored by RNW. It is also very interesting to note that South Asia Wired have linked to a blog like Teeth Maestro as its Favourite. See in Teeth Maestro how they compare India to the terror organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba and trivialise our tragedies!

    Check out this link: http://teeth.com.pk/blog/2009/01/05/why-is-india-behaving-like-lashkar-e-taiba-let

  6. #6 jasmin
    on Mar 25th, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Yes, Dheera has a soft corner for Pakistan though she is an Indian. Her blog is more about Pakistan. RNW loves to have Indian fans on Euro Hit but the articles show a tilt towards Muslims and Pakistan. I do my bit as an Indian to point out the bias on the site.

  7. #7 dheera
    on Mar 25th, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Folks please - stop with the accusations already. Dev and Jasmin this means you. I am Indian, and love the place (and occasionally, like most Indians, am also exasperated beyond measure by it).
    I have no bias against anyone - believe me, but sometimes I like to highlight stories in a way that you may not be receiving in India - I’m not after all, from an Indian mainstream media organization but from Radio Netherlands though my view on my blog is purely my own and not the company’s.
    And FIY I’ve been scouring Indian blogs but have yet to find something I can term as a favourite. I like Teeth Maestro because he’s got pretty fresh news on his site - not that I agree with everything he or his followers comment on. But if a story turns into what you call India bashing, that’s not what I like about the blog. India does its fair share of Pakistan bashing and frankly I’ve got no patience for either side if they’re on that track.
    If you can point me to some Indian sites that are fresh, interesting, newsy without rants - lead on, I’m more than happy to check them out. I continue my search for good writing and fresh stories from within India.
    Meanwhile if you want a perspective that comes from an insider on the outside, that hopefully is what SAW is about. If you want some Tally ho India stories and flag waving - you’re in the wrong place - there are enough Indian media sites to do that.
    Having got that off my chest, can I re-iterate that we all read your comments with interest here at RNW and are delighted to have a couple of such devoted fans. Spread the word and get more people to throw us bouquets and brickbats.

  8. #8 Dev Narayan
    on Mar 26th, 2010 at 4:29 pm

    Thanks Dheera for your frank comments. Your points are noted! I enjoy your feedback all the more. Oh by the way, Sometimes after a lot of comments, hearing something intense from you makes me really feel that our comments are read by humans and we are not commenting to mute machines, even though you tell us often you all read the comments.

    Its nice getting regular feedbacks! I think we could express our thoughts freely over here and enjoy comments coming from others too freely. Now I hope Jasmin has got your answers and I have done my part in getting those feelings direct from your heart! Pardon me if my words pricked you direct where it feels uncomfortable!

    You said you have no bias against anyone, I would suggest you read my words with care, you will see that nowhere did I mention you personally having any bias against anyone! Please understand my words as it is before you, not as you want to understand it! Let South Asia be Wired; not Electrocuted!!!

    I dared to express my words freely in your blog, as you boldly wrote somewhere else in this blog earlier, “Bouquets or boulders, keep throwing them at us. We’re just happy you’re taking the time to, not only read, but interact with us.” Dheera, if you stand true to your words, you must also be ready to take the comments graciously instead of saying that with our comments we may be in the wrong place, as if implying; better we get out of here before you lose your patience! Dheera, it’s rather easy to talk about free will & free talk, but when it happens it is not so easy to take it ! That is why we see dictatorial regimes restrict or censor free will and free press. Malalai Joya is an example, the people who found her views distasteful threw her out of the parliament. They threatened her with death. Sure they too might have thought she is in the wrong place when she started expressing herself freely!

    Regarding spreading the word, you might have noticed, if it is monitored, that I had clicked the share button a few times by now to send a mail to whom I felt would be interested in having a dekko at this blog. I had also been contacting friends on my personal mail too as I felt from your earlier comments that you have the strength to take free talk! If you really intend South Asia Wired then expect more sparks when people in the subcontinent interact. May be by that time or before I might disappear to the right place to where I belong!

    Meanwhile, keep posting, I will be commenting intensely! God Bless!

  9. #9 jasmin
    on Mar 27th, 2010 at 10:59 am

    Well said, Dev Narayan. Let Dheera enjoy her blogging. She will find plenty of devoted visitors who can say, ‘Tally Ho Dheera’…

  10. #10 Ehab
    on Apr 1st, 2010 at 8:25 pm

    Could someone please post the locations of the Rohingya camps along Coxs Bazar ? I would like to visit there later this month.

    I will really appreciate this.

  11. #11 jasmin
    on Apr 6th, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Easter is all about forgiveness and compassion. I do not want to carry hard feelings for anyone in the world. So, truce! Happy Easter, Dheera Sujan.

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