By Jamison Maeda
Police rescued nearly 700 ethnic Rohingya Muslim refugees from Myanmar (formerly Burma,) in a raid on a human trafficking camp in southern Thailand. Traffickers were holding the Rohingya people for ransom. Some hostages had already been killed.
It was the Reuters news agency that first reported on a secret government policy which removed Rohingya refugees from Thai immigration centres and turned them over to human traffickers. The United Nations called for an investigation which led to last month’s raid.
In the last two years, attacks on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar (Burma) have increase astronomically. Hundreds have died or disappeared, and tens of thousands have attempted to flee in overcrowded boats that were not seaworthy. Many have drowned, including children.
In an apartheid-like policy the Rohingya ethnic group has become the most persecuted people in the world. Myanmar’s (Burma’s) government stripped them of their citizenship in 1982. They are now unable to own land, are victims of arbitrary taxation, slavery, and over 150,000 Rohingya people are currently held in squalid refugee camps in their own country by Burmese police who frequently deny them international, humanitarian aid.
Numerous crimes against humanity have been committed by Myanmar’s monks and lay follower population who identify as Buddhist.
In the face of these atrocities, the US government is considering providing financial as well as military aid to the government of Myanmar (Burma). Popular Burmese public figure Suu Kyi refuses to help the Rohingya people in any way as she is focused on her own upcoming campaign for Myanmar’s (Burma) presidency.
With very few people calling for action to help the Rohingya people or even raising awareness of their situation, the future looks bleak for both the people trapped in the camps and those attempting to escape to Malaysia or Thailand. And Thailand’s record of fighting human trafficking is so dismal it’s approaching the same levels as North Korea and Iran.
People around the world need to be alerted to the plight of the over 800,000 Rohingya people who are in grave danger. And instead of contributing military aid, international pressure needs to be put on the governments of Burma and Thailand to take action against human traffickers who for so long have not only been tolerated but actively encouraged.