News / Asia

UN Asks Asian States to Accept Burma Refugees

Burmeese displaced by recent violence carry their belongings as they arrive by boats to Thaechaung refugee camp, outside of Sittwe (formerly Akyab), the capital of Rakhine State, October 28, 2012.
Burmeese displaced by recent violence carry their belongings as they arrive by boats to Thaechaung refugee camp, outside of Sittwe (formerly Akyab), the capital of Rakhine State, October 28, 2012.
Lisa Schlein
The U.N. refugee agency is calling on countries in Southeast Asia to open their borders to people fleeing insecurity and violence in Burma. The UNHCR said it is seriously concerned by the recent drowning of Rohingya Muslims who fled by boat from Burma’s Rakhine state in search of a safe haven.

In the last two weeks, two boats reportedly sank in the Bay of Bengal with an estimated 240 people aboard. The U.N. refugee agency said Rohingyas from Burma’s Rakhine state were among them.  

UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming saida Bangladeshi naval patrol and fishermen reportedly rescued 40 people from the sinking vessels. “People saw bodies floating in the water, so that does lead us to believe that the fate of those remaining 200 is not good," said Fleming.

"These two incidents mark an alarming start to the traditional sailing season … boating season in the Bay of Bengal, when a mix of asylum seekers and irregular migrants risk their lives on fishing boats in the hope of seeking safety and a better life in Southeast Asia,” she added.  

An estimated 7,000-8,000 people left Burma via the Bay of Bengal during the previous sailing season from October 2011 to March 2012. The UNHCR said it fears many more could follow in the coming weeks because of escalating tension between the Buddhist-majority Rakhine and minority Muslim Rohingyas in Rakhine State.

Inter-communal violence broke out in June. This was exacerbated in October by renewed ethnic fighting, which killed dozens of people, destroyed thousands of homes and displaced more than 110,000 people.

Fleming said the UNHCR fears that many Rohingyas, driven by desperation, hopelessness and fear, could risk their lives by crossing the Bay of Bengal in un-seaworthy craft.

“UNHCR is urging the government of Myanmar to take urgent action to address some of the main, what we call, push-factors - the factors that are driving people [to flee]," Fleming said.

"These issues are also connected with the problem of citizenship and statelessness in relation to the Rohingyas. … There is a fragile calm that has returned, but tensions remain very high and there is lots of fear that the violence could explode again,”  she added.

The Muslim Rohingyas have lived in Burma for generations, but have never been granted citizenship. They remain stateless and deprived of all rights and benefits available to Burmese citizens.

UNHCR’s Fleming calls this situation unsustainable. Burma is in the world’s spotlight right now, she says, and with the advent of a new government and the engagement of Nobel laureate Aung San Su Kyi, there is now a sense of hope that this long-standing issue could finally be resolved.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More