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Paula Bronstein / Getty Images



The Unwanted: Burma’S Rohingyas
USA    www.paulaphoto.com

As a photojournalist based in Bangkok, Myanmar is a close neighbor and a country that I have become quite familiar with. My extensive work in Burma has been published globally showing a more intimate look at daily life of the people, their hardships and the flow of change both economically and politically. This includes my photography of the unending plight of the Rohingya. Although the Burmese government has become conscious of the negative publicity created by the long-standing discrimination against Rohingyas it offers no resolution to the on going problems. Myanmar’s president, Thein Sein, has also denied there have been human rights abuses against the Rohingya.

Along Burma’s western coast in Rakhine state the situation is quite dire. Years ago the Buddhists who are the majority along with the minority Rohingya lived peacefully together. After a wave of religious violence swept the region approximately 135,000 Rohingya have been closed off for more than two years living as virtual prisoners in over crowded, unsanitary camps for internally displaced persons racially segregated from the Rakhine Buddhists. Rohingya Muslims are officially considered illegal “immigrants” from Bangladesh and denied the rights of citizenship, though many of their families have lived in the country for generations. They have scarce food, water and health care. Many have died from preventable medical conditions such as malnutrition. With only basic health care available inside the camps most cannot even afford to get medicine. The Rohingya also have severe restrictions on marriage, employment, and education. International media and human rights organizations have described Rohingyas as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.

Between January and March this year, around 25,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis boarded boats run by smugglers which is twice as many as in 2014, according to the U.N. refugee agency. Currently an escalating migrant crisis is stranding thousands of refugees at sea as they escape on overcrowded vessels, most are ethnic Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar.