Who are the Rohingyas?

Rohingya are a Muslim minority in predominantly-Buddhist Myanmar, also known as Burma. They are concentrated in western Rakhine state, which is adjacent to Bangladesh, but are not recognised by the Myanmar government as an official ethnic group and are denied citizenship. Since Burma’s independence in 1948, the Rohingya have gradually been excluded and became persecuted.

Rohingya want equal rights in Myanmar. Myanmar’s government says they are not eligible for citizenship under the country’s military-drafted 1982 law, which defines full citizens as members of ethnic groups that had permanently settled in modern-day Myanmar prior to 1823.

In Myanmar, the Rohingya have limited access to education and medical care, cannot move around or practice their religion freely. So they try to flee abroad, most hoping to reach Muslim-majority Malaysia in search of jobs and security. To do that, they crowd small wooden boats nearly every day — an average of 900 people per day.

Thousands of Rohingya as well as Bangladeshis are now believed to be abandoned at sea close to the shores of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. About 2,000 have landed on shore, but the three govts have turned away others. An estimated 6,000 are stranded at sea.

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