Rohingya are Muslim outcasts, not welcome anywhere

Published on 15 February 2009

For generations, the ethnic Muslim Rohingya have endured persecution by the ruling junta of Myanmar, a predominantly Buddhist country. The plight of the Rohingya, 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 Indonesia and the Andaman Islands. [...] 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. [...] 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.

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Associated Press (AP)