The plight and destiny for the Muslim Rohingya of Myanmar (Burma) has been the source of condemnation by human rights authorities. Denied rights of citizenship, basic medical, educational, and economic opportunity, the Rohingya have been ostracized at best by Myanmar government officials and followers of the Burma monk Saydaw Wirathu. (See: “Aung San Suu Kyi — Silence to Genocide?”)
Forced to flee Myanmar out of fear, deprivation, and hope for a better life, many have fallen victim to human trafficker predators. Many Rohingya from Myanmar’s Rakhine State depart into the Bay of Bengal and drown. Those fortunate to survive the voyage end up in horrific smuggler’s camps in Thailand.
This week a UN Relief agency discovered dozens of bodies in Thai smuggler’s camps. The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports: “It’s distressing to hear that people who escaped difficult conditions back home have had to put their lives in the hands of ruthless smugglers, only to be killed before they could reach safety.”
UN News Centre
Thai authorities announced this week that they found the remains of some 30 people believed to originate in Myanmar and Bangladesh, according to a UNHCR press release issued in Bangkok, Thailand.
“Investigations are still ongoing, with initial police accounts citing illness and abuse as likely causes of death,” according to UNHCR.
In Myanmar’s Rakhine state – where many of the smuggling victims originate – UNHCR has long advocated for and stands ready to support concerted efforts to stabilize the situation through the realization of rights for all, reconciliation, socio-economic equality and addressing issues related to citizenship.
UNHCR says it has learned from hundreds of Rohingya survivors about horrific abuse and deprivation by smugglers on boats in the Bay of Bengal and in camps along the Thai-Malaysian border, including some who reported they saw people dying from beatings and lack of food.
“Smuggling is a regional problem that requires coordinated efforts by countries in the region, including countries of origin, transit and destination,” he said. “Law enforcement measures must be accompanied by efforts to reduce the need for migrants and refugees to turn to smugglers in the first place, including by addressing the root causes driving people to undertake these dangerous journeys.”