246 - Different Continents, Different Humanitarian Problems – Southeast Asia
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Different Continents, Different Humanitarian Problems: Southeast Asia

Rohingya Muslims are abandoned in Southeast Asia

In the ‘Different Continents, Different Humanitarian Problems’ series of articles, we take a look at the issues that do not just affect an individual country, but an entire region. Today, we highlight the extremely dire situation the Rohingya Muslims face in Myanmar and surrounding countries.

Humanitarian Problems for the Rohingya Muslims

In Southeast Asia, the refugee crisis is a complex mix of ethnical, political and humanitarian challenges. Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled Burma, and it has largely gone unnoticed by Western politicians and media. Unlike Europe, where the refugee crisis is a fiercely debated issue and a topic regularly discussed in the news, in this side of the world, it has been sidelined and assumed.

The Rohingya persecution in is an ongoing military repression by Myanmar’s armed forces and police on Rohingya Muslims. The Burmese authorities are accused of wide-scale human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, infanticides and much more. It is estimated that more than 120,000 Rohingya have fled in the past years. Especially since the government crackdown late 2016, the crisis has worsened.

1.2 million Rohingya Muslims live in the Rakhine State, which is a fraction of Myanmar’s population of 57 million, predominantly Buddhist, people. The Rohingya are deprived of the right to free movement and of higher education. They are denied Burmese citizenship and face an increasingly grim situation. The Muslim minority have boarded ships, paying vast sums to human traffickers to be transported to transit camps in the region. For example in Thailand, where physical abuses, including rape and beatings, are rampant.

“It’s becoming a silent crisis which does not have the international attention that it deserves, given the scale of the needs of the people and the uncertain future they are facing,” says Ezekiel Simperingham, Asia Pacific Regional Migration Coordinator for the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC).

Thousands of migrants are left at sea with nowhere to go, because no country will take the persecuted Rohingya people. The UN refugee agency says the deliberate refusal to help them and others could quickly lead to a “massive humanitarian disaster”.

According to human rights groups, the migrants are at risk of starvation, dehydration and different health issues. Their situation will only worsen while irresponsible regional governments, eschewing search-and-rescue operations, try instead to make the refugees somebody else’s problem.

“The Thai, Malaysian and Indonesian navies should stop playing a three-way game of human ping pong, and instead should work together to rescue all those on these ill-fated boats,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch Asia.

Thanks to our shared goal of helping others and making our planet a better home for all of us, we work in close coordination with humanitarian organizations and the individual humanitarian travelers themselves. Their passion and dedication to the priceless efforts aimed at alleviating the pain of vulnerable people motivate us. If you want to learn more about humanitarian problems around the globe, please follow our blog.