Rights group decries Myanmar’s camps for displaced Rohingya

BANGKOK (AP) — The de facto detention of 130,000 ethnic Rohingya in squalid camps in Myanmar amounts to a form of apartheid, a human rights group alleged yestedray in urging the world to pressure Myanmar’s government to free them.

The camps are a legacy of long discrimination against the Rohingya minority in Myanmar and were the immediate consequence of communal violence that began in 2012 between the Rohingya and the Rakhine ethnic group. The fighting left people in both groups homeless, but almost all of the Rakhine have since returned to their homes or been resettled, while the Rohingya have not.

Human Rights Watch in its new report said inhuman conditions in 24 tightly restricted camps and closed-off communities in the western state of Rakhine threaten the right to life and other basic rights of the Rohingya.

“Severe limitations on livelihoods, movement, education, healthcare, and adequate food and shelter have been compounded by widening constraints on humanitarian aid, which Rohingya depend on for survival,” the report said. “Camp detainees face higher rates of malnutrition, waterborne illnesses, and child and maternal mortality than their ethnic Rakhine neighbours.”

“The government’s claims that it’s not committing the gravest international crimes will ring hollow until it cuts the barbed wire and allows Rohingya to return to their homes, with full legal protections,” said Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch and author of the report Shayna Bauchner.

Myanmar’s government had no immediate response to the report. Rohingya are not recognised as an official minority in Myanmar, where they face widespread discrimination and most are denied citizenship and other basic rights. Many members of other ethnic groups consider the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

File photo shows a Rohingya boy walking with a mat as children play in the background at Dar Paing camp for refugees in north of Sittwe. PHOTO: AP