Not a friend in the world

Published on 31 January 2009

BARE backs striped with the scabbed welts of savage beatings; a youngster sobbing in a hospital bed with cotton wool padded to burns on his thigh; skeletally thin men on a wooden boat, half-filled with seawater, some so weak they can hardly clamber aboard a rescueship. These are the Burmese Rohingya, pictured in photographs that have shocked the world. Human-rights groups now say hundreds of these stateless and desperate people are feared drowned, after the Burmese military beat many of them, and the Thai military detained hundreds of others, later pushing their rickety boats back out into international waters allegedly with no engines and inadequate food and water. [...] Rohingya in Burma are used as forced labour and denied ordinary human rights. Meanwhile, the World Food Program this week warned that six million Burmese now need food aid, and pointed to the districts along Burma's western border, including Arakan, where access is restricted and the distribution of aid consequently limited.

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