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The terrifying voyage of Burma’s boat people

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Next month thousands of young Burmese Muslims, persecuted in their own land, will attempt to voyage across the sea to a better life – but a sinister fate awaits them. John Carlin of the UK Independent investigates.

Here’s a formula for making a killing in times of crisis. Go to the south-eastern tip of Bangladesh, on the border with Burma, and buy an old fishing boat. It’ll cost 100,000 taka, or about £900. Then budget 450 pounds, for rice and drinking water, and maybe another £450 for bribes. Then head off and trawl for clients among the most destitute communities in Bangladesh – a country so densely populated country and so poor that for Britain to be on similar economic terms it would have to have a population of 200 million with an average income around four per cent of what a Briton’s is today.

But the target market we are looking at here is several times more impoverished than that. We are talking about quite possibly the most neglected people in Asia, or anywhere else. They call themselves Rohingyas, a Muslim minority from Burma, 30,000 of whom have been so cruelly persecuted by their country’s military junta, in large measure because of their religion, that they have chosen to flee over the border to live in a refugee camp that they themselves built, without the help of the United Nations or anybody else. It is on a little hillside that is so hot, cramped, stinking, hungry and disease-ridden that, by contrast, the neighbouring string of squalid Bangladeshi fishing villages feels like the Costa del Sol.

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Full article here.




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