Geneva, 12 June-2014(AFP/Arabnews): The thousands of Rohingya Muslims still flooding out of Myanmar’s Rakhine state two years after violence erupted there are facing increasing abuse and exploitation, the UN refugee agency warned Tuesday. Two waves of deadly communal violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Rakhine in 2012 left some 200 people dead and around 140,000 displaced, mainly Rohingya.
A Rohingya Muslim woman cooks a meal in Zedipyin village at Maungdaw, in the northern Rakhine state, in this June 6, 2014 photo. (Reuters)
“Two years after inter-communal violence erupted in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, thousands of people are still leaving by boat from the Bay of Bengal,” UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva.
“Reports of abuse and exploitation as people seek safety and stability elsewhere are meanwhile increasing,” he said. He said the desperate refugees faced abuse and exploitation from smugglers and traffickers en route, but also once they reached countries like Thailand and Malaysia.
The UNHCR estimates that more than 86,000 people have left the area by boat from the Bay of Bengal since June 2012, including 15,000 between January and April this year alone.
“People who have made it to Thailand, Malaysia or Indonesia have told UNHCR staff about overcrowded boats that sometimes lost their way or developed engine problems,” Edwards said.
Boats sometimes ran out of food and water, and people who died along the way were said to have been thrown overboard, he said.
Some of those who reached Thailand told the UNHCR they had been taken to overcrowded “smugglers’ camps” in the jungles or hills near the Thailand-Malaysia border, where they were kept for months — “sometimes in cages” — until their families could pay for their release, Edwards said.
“They recount daily beatings and that some people died,” he said, adding that “they spent their days sitting in confined spaces and nights sleeping upright or in foetal position due to the lack of space.”
The stateless Rohingya are considered by the UN to be one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. Many of the displaced have gone without access to health care and other help after attacks on international humanitarian groups by Buddhist extremists earlier this year.
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According to Amnesty International, Muslim Rohingyas have suffered human rights abuses for decades.Buddhist extremists want to eliminate Muslims from Myanmar and create a pure Buddhist state. Their policy of ethnic cleansing is known as “Burmanization”
Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar are:
1. not recognized officially as citizens of the state;
2. restricted to having two children;
3. not allowed to own property or land;
4. not allowed to travel without official permission;
4. subjected to forced eviction and house destruction;
5. forced as labourers on roads and military camps; &
6. suffer from constant anti-Muslim riots.
In 1978 a Burmese military operation targeted Muslim Rohingya civilians, resulting in widespread killings, rape and destruction of mosques and further religious persecution. 1991-92 Rohingyas suffered forced labour, as well as instant executions, torture, and rape.
2012 Thousands of Rohingya Muslims have been killed since June. entire villages have been razed to the ground resulting in tens of thousands of refugees.
Human Rights Watch witnessed police and troops allowing Buddhist mobs to beat Muslims to death. Some Rohingyas who tried to flee or put out fires at their homes were shot at by the army.