Tue, Feb 26, 2013 - Page 6 News List

FEATURE: Desperate refugees flee from Myanmar for uncertain future

AFP, KHAO LAK, Thailand

Hundreds of others have been blocked by the Thai navy from entering the kingdom as part of a new crackdown that began after allegations emerged that Thai army officials were involved in the trafficking of Rohingya.

Myanmar’s population of about 800,000 Rohingya face travel restrictions, forced labor and limited access to healthcare and education.

Bangladesh used to be the destination of choice for those fleeing the country, but it has since closed its border to the Rohingya.

Now many want to go to Muslim Malaysia, where they are allowed into the country, but denied any sort of legal status that would allow access to healthcare, education, jobs and other services, activists say.

The UN estimates that last year about 13,000 boat people fled Myanmar and Bangladesh. Few who reach Thailand want to stay permanently, preferring to join relatives elsewhere.

“I’m not happy here. I will be happy if I can go Malaysia,” Abdul Azim said.

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