Myanmar is experiencing yet another exodus of more than 8,000 Rohingya Muslims who are leaving the country by boat. The group has been repeatedly attacked by Buddhist mobs in the past few years.
People living in Myanmar's western coastal state, Rakhine, told the Associated Press (AP) that several thousand members of the persecuted Muslim community were leaving the country. Chris Lewa, director of the Arakan Project which works with Rohingyas, also told AP that an average of 900 people had been leaving Myanmar on a daily basis on cargo ships since October 15.
A majority of Myanmar's Rohingya live in the northern tip of the Rakhine state. The authorities recently began a "verification process" which would theoretically enable minorities to become naturalized citizens. However, the government does not recognize the Rohingya as an indigenous group.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said in an interview with DW that the verification process, which is based on a 1982 citizenship law, is "arbitrary and opaque." The Rohingya caught in this process will face years of "indefinite detention in locked down, crowded and squalid camps for displaced persons."
Furthermore, the Rohingya can apply for citizenship under this law only if they agree to be labeled as "Bengali"- a word which suggests that they were not born in Myanmar, Robertson said. Even if a Rohingya is granted citizenship, there is no guarantee that he will be protected against attacks by Buddhists in other areas of the state.
The Rohingya community gathered international focus in 2012 after sectarian violence erupted in Rakhine, displacing hundreds of thousands of people. According to the United Nations, at least 86,000 members of the group have fled the country in the last two years. Many of them travel to Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand, where they often get deported or fall prey to human traffickers.
mg/slk (AP, Reuters)