Michael Drost-Hansen (Danish School of Journalism)
Since the Rohingya lost citizenship in Burma the Rohingya Muslims in Burma's western Rakhine province has been exposed to something resembling ethnic cleansing. In June 2012 140,000 Rohingya were violently driven from their homes in the main city, Sittwe when tensions between muslims and buddhist led to violence. Several thousand Muslim houses was burnt down and more than 200 people were killed by the military and police as they tried to save their homes. In Burma more than one million rohingya people has been forced away. Some fled to other countries and some are still in the country.
The Rohingya in Burma now live in government-controlled camps for internally displaced people just a few kilometers from their former homes. The camps are like prisons, they can not go outside the camps and are cut of from the outside world. The children can not go to school, and very little aid is offered.
Burma is a very complex country, consisting of about 150 recognized ethnic groups. In 2010, these 150 groups cut down to 135. 15 ethnic groups were no longer considered citizens of the country. Among them Rohingya. They were now seen as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh without any rights. They are maintained in the camps indefinitely. Burma will not recognize them or have them in the country.
Their only way of escape is the Bay Of Bengal in homemade boats. The most obvious place to go is Bangladesh. But there is already many Rohingya there and the country has other problems. Therefore the Rohingya risk that the military and police literally pushes the boats out to sea again. Those who flee Burma now, go to Malaysia or Thailand. A journey of more than 2,000 kilometers.
Dar Paing is one of 15 IDP camps outside Sittwe that houses the 140.000 Rohingya muslims who lost their homes.
Making A Living
There are not many opportunities to make money in the camps. One of the best ways ti make money is fishing. The fishermen are often at sea for 8-10 days. What they catch they will sell to Rakhine who come to the camps to make business.
Space is limited. Each long house is shared by ten families, each having two small rooms. Here 25 year old Abdullah lives with his wife, three children, parents and a grandmother. Abdullah sorts of small dried fish to be sold in the market.
Abdul Sarlam is 58 years old and lives in one of the camps with his wife, Fetamah, and their three children. Abdul was a rickshaw driver in Sittwe until his house was burned down. He tried to put out the fire, but was shot in the leg by the military.
Some men knows how to make boats. The boats are used for fishing and to escape. It take 4-5 men one week to build a boat.
A group of boys carry blocks of clay to reinforce the dike that separates the camps from the Indian Ocean.
Just because there is a clinic, it doesn't mean that there is help. A boy with an bad stomach is not seen by a doctor.
Western Myanmar has always been borderland between Buddhism in the East and the Muslim empires to the west. Myanmar is primarily a Buddhist country and the Rohingya is discrimination partly because of their religion. Here a group of boys are taught Arabic by an Imam in the camp.
Reality has not been good to the Rohingya. But despite the conditions they keep the spirits high. Here a group of boys plays a kind of soccer-tennis on the outskirts of a camp.
Zormi Hussein, 13, was knocked down by police during the riots in June 2012. He hit his head so much that he was brain damaged. Today he is multi-handicapped. He can't sit, eat, smile or communicate.
Heisbagum (left), 16, lives with her husband, Ilias. Heisbagum has just given birth to the couple's first child. But there is no time to relax. In addition to the newborn, she takes care of a little boy who lost both his parents to tuberculosis and her friend who has been ill the past few weeks.
Every week boats filled with Rohingya are leaving the camps. They hope to be accepted in Thailand or Malaysia. Some men take off on the dangerous journey alone leaving wife and children back. When they arrive, they will work and send money back to family. It is not sure they will ever be reunited.