Friday, January 30, 2009

Human traffickers lead Myanmar minority into death trap

One of the developing stories over the last couple of days is a brutal forced drownings by the hands of the Thai military.

As background, a minority from Myanmar named the Rohingyas have fled the country as the Muslim minority is not recognized by the Buddhist nation. Many flee to Bangladesh.

How this relates to poverty is the human trafficking aspect. Traffickers prey on the people promising them jobs and a good life if they leave to another country. After paying the traffickers they are put in rickety boats and have to brave the ocean.

So a group of these Rohingyas were turned away by the Thai military, beaten, and sent out to sea, where as many as 550 of them drowned.

This Reuters article provides more details, from writer Nizam Ahmed.

Mohammad Iqbal was one of a 250-strong group of stateless Rohingya who left Bangladesh a month ago in a rickety wooden boat, lured by agents promising a job in Malaysia.

More than 550 Rohingya, a Muslim minority group in pre-dominantly Buddhist Myanmar, are feared to have drowned in the last two months after being towed out to sea by the Thai military.

The Thai army has admitted cutting them loose, but said they had food and water and denied the engines were sabotaged.

A group of 78 Rohingya are now in Thai police custody while another boatload of 193 washed up on Indonesia's Aceh coast.

Many such as Iqbal have been lured by human traffickers offering them jobs in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.

"They (traffickers) take 30,000 taka (about $450) or more from each individual looking for a life in Malaysia or neighbouring countries," Iqbal's mother Nurun said.

"But not many could afford this. Those who did are cheated by the traffickers, like being dropped on unknown shores," she said.

The lucky ones have found work in Bangladesh, on fishing boats or rickshaws. Others have taken to chopping wood in forests and some others have taken to petty crime.

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