Facing a perilous journey in hope of finding relief from persecution and poverty, the tragic predicament facing these migrants has forced regional policymakers into an ethical quandary. Moreover, the grim discovery of mass gravesites and people-smuggling camps deep in the jungles of northern Malaysia underscore the seriousness and scale of the region’s human trafficking problem.
At the root of the ongoing crisis is Myanmar’s treatment of the Rohingya community, a Muslim ethnic minority group whose citizenship was rescinded in a 1982 law passed by the then-ruling military junta. Although records of Rohingya settlements date back centuries, Myanmar has asserted that they are illegal immigrants with no right to citizenship, subjecting the community to institutionalized discrimination with limited access to education, healthcare and freedom of movement.
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Nile Bowie is a Singapore-based political commentator and columnist for the Malaysian Reserve newspaper. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.