Saturday, January 31, 2009

MYANMAR WITH MALAYSIAKINI: Poverty drives Rohingyas into death trap

Malaysia put heavy emphasis since day one on education as a way to bring up society and economy. Everybody has to go to school from year1 [standard 1 or darjah 1] right up to form 5 or tingkatan 5. Then they can venture out into higher learning or works. There is PTPTN which dutifully gives out loans for studies. Thats what some say as democratization of education. So democracy is not only about parading on streets or secretly videotaping people and show it to the whole world. Democracy is more than cheap political talks.

On a wider level, we are blessed with reasonably good transport network, bus systems, water reticulation system, power supply, and health system. I dont know, but past leaders, government and agencies must have played their role to bring about all these good things. Of course some would argue that it was the British that had put and left such a good system for the rest to improve further.

Wonder what happen over in Myanmar. They are hiding. But the Rohingyas, being the minority, and being neither here nor there are the real victims. Poverty had driven them into death traps. Lets read what Anis, Sanjeev, Nizam Ahmad from FADANARDALE, Bangladesh had to say....

Poverty drives
Myanmar Rohingyas
into death traps

by Nizam Ahmad

friday 30.1.2009

Mohammad Iqbal was one of a 250-strong group of stateless Rohingya who left Bangladesh a month ago in a rickety wooden boat, lured by agents promising a job in Malaysia.

Now his family is hoping he is one of those who survived brutal treatment at the hands of the Thai military who have admitted to towing hundreds of the Muslim boatpeople from Bangladesh and Myanmar far out in the Andaman Sea before cutting them adrift.

"I am waiting and waiting. No one knows anything about my husband and the others who were in the group," Iqbal's wife, Nur Kahtun, said in the coastal village of Fadanardale, 400 km (250 miles) southeast of the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka.

Some people in the village said they had seen pictures of Iqbal, 30, in a television footage of a detention centre for illegal migrants in Thailand.

"I don't know if it is true, we haven't heard from him since he left," she said as her two-year-old son and her mother-in-law looked on.

More than 550 Rohingya, a Muslim minority group in pre-dominantly Buddhist Myanmar, are feared to have drowned in the last two months after being towed out to sea by the Thai military.

The Thai army has admitted cutting them loose, but said they had food and water and denied the engines were sabotaged.

A group of 78 Rohingya are now in Thai police custody while another boatload of 193 washed up on Indonesia's Aceh coast.

Myanmar's military junta does not recognize the Rohingya as one of the country's around 130 minorities, and many have fled to Bangladesh alleging persecution at the hands of the military.

Bangladesh says there are some 200,000 Rohingyas living illegally in the country, in addition to the 21,000 housed in two UN refugee camps in the Cox's Bazar district.

It is the men and women who are outside the camps who are fighting a desperate struggle for survival

Many such as Iqbal have been lured by human traffickers offering them jobs in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.

"They (traffickers) take 30,000 taka (about $450) or more from each individual looking for a life in Malaysia or neighbouring countries," Iqbal's mother Nurun said.

"But not many could afford this. Those who did are cheated by the traffickers, like being dropped on unknown shores," she said.

The lucky ones have found work in Bangladesh, on fishing boats or rickshaws. Others have taken to chopping wood in forests and some others have taken to petty crime.

"These people take so much risks only because they need to survive, need to keep their families well," said a government official in Cox Bazaar.

(Writing by Anis Ahmed; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)