Religion


Malaysia and Indonesia have vowed to turn back any boats carrying migrants that enter their waters, as the UN calls for “a massive international search and rescue operation” in the Andaman Sea and Straits of Malacca.
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Thousands of people, both Muslim Rohingyas fleeing persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshis seeking jobs in Malaysia, have been abandoned at sea recently in Southeast Asia by smugglers fearing arrest as Thailand cracks down on human traffickers. At least 8,000 people are in peril, yet the Southeast Asian nations off whose shores they drift have been reluctant to save them.
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Irrawaddy Division police officers have arrested 14 ethnic Rohingya alongside 12 other people suspected of bringing them from a relief camp in the Arakan State capital of Sittwe to Thabaung Township.
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Non-Buddhist men may face two years in prison or a 1.5 million kyat (US$1,500) fine, or both, if found to have violated the controversial Buddhist Women’s Marriage Bill, which is currently awaiting a second approval in Burma’s upper house.
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The refugees fleeing Myanmar, from the Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority, have been persecuted for decades. They have been evicted from their homes and kicked off their land, and attacked by the military and by Buddhist extremists in Rakhine, the western coastal state where they live. Their voting rights were effectively revoked in February. Their government insists that they are in the country illegally, and most neighboring countries refuse to accept them.
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An unusual book launch was held at the House of Media & Entertainment on Yangon’s Bo Aung Kyaw Street on April 25. The title of the book is Vibhajja Echo, and all of the contributors are monks.
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More than 1,000 refugees, including many women and children, came ashore in Malaysia early on Monday in what appears to be a sign of an accelerated exodus from western Myanmar and Bangladesh.
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Four boats carrying some 1,400 Rohingya migrants were rescued off the coasts of Indonesia and Malaysia on Monday, officials said, a day after nearly 600 others arrived in a wooden vessel off Indonesia’s Aceh.
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Hundreds of migrants abandoned at sea by smugglers in Southeast Asia have reached land and relative safety in the past two days. But an estimated 6,000 Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar remain trapped in crowded, wooden boats, migrant officials and activists said Monday. With food and clean water running low, some could be in grave danger.
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More than 70 Burmese nationals, apparently smuggled into Thailand by human traffickers, have been found starving in the forest in the country’s central Chumphon province.
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Agartala: At least 25 people, including women and children from Myanmar suspected to be victims of an international human trafficking racket, were arrested by Tripura police on Saturday for illegally entering the country. (more…)

UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards, speaking on May 8 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, has voiced alarm over the growing number of people fleeing Myanmar and Bangladesh by sea.
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Canada’s religious freedom ambassador denounced the persecution of Muslims in Myanmar and urged Canadian businesses eager to find opportunities in that resource-rich country to respect human rights.
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Around 1,600 refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh were rescued off the coast of Indonesia on Sunday and detained in Malaysia on Monday. (more…)

Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha on Friday called for a three-way meeting with neighbours Malaysia and Myanmar to try to resolve a regional human trafficking crisis following the discovery of a mass grave in the country’s far south.
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A crackdown on human trafficking networks in Thailand is putting migrants fleeing Myanmar and Bangladesh at more risk as smugglers hold their captives for longer at sea and hide deeper in the jungle, say activists and officials.
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Thailand’s junta chief has given a ten-day deadline for the elimination of all illegal detention camps of smuggled migrants across the country’s 76 provinces after the discovery of two abandoned sites complete with graves and bodies, amid emerging evidence of widespread corruption.
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Authorities in Thailand have dug up the bodies of six apparent Rohingya migrants from Myanmar not far from a mass grave found at the weekend, the military said on Wednesday, and U.N. officials called for a regional effort to end human trafficking.
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Thai police arrested three local officials and a Myanmar national that they allege were involved in trafficking and holding Rohingya Muslims for ransom at a jungle camp where 26 bodies were dug up from shallow graves last week in southern Thailand.
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When Thai police discovered human remains in shallow graves at a make-shift camp just a handful of kilometres from the Malaysian border, “they only scratched the surface” of a much larger operation, according to migrant rights activists.
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