Photojournalist Michael Drost-Hansen is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography. From his project ‘Rohingya‘. To see Michael’s body of work click on any photograph.
In June 2012 a wave of violence spread throughout Rakhine State in the western part of Myanmar. Rakhine is one of the poorest states in the country and was home to the majority of Rohingya Muslims in the country. In 2012 the capital of Rakhine State, Sittwe, was home to 200.000 Rakhine Buddhists and 140.000 Rohingya Muslims. For decades there have been tensions between the two groups. After a Buddhist woman was allegedly raped by three Rohingya men, a group of Rakhine brutally murmured 10 Muslim pilgrims in return. More than 8,000 women are raped each year in Myanmar, but this one should prove to be landmark.
"During the clashes major Muslim areas were set on fire and more than 200 Rohingya were killed in Sittwe alone. 140.000 lost their homes..."
The following days there were clashes between Rakhine and Rohingya in several places in Rakhine state. On June 10, President Thein Sein declared a state of emergency throughout the area. In the Northern Rakhine the police searched homes and serious violence were carried out by the security forces in attempt to find the suspected trouble makers among Rohingya. In Sittwe, Rohingya went on the street and protested, but the vast majority of Buddhists held them back. During the clashes major Muslim areas were set on fire and more than 200 Rohingya were killed in Sittwe alone. 140.000 lost their homes and the President stated that Rohingya was no longer welcome in his country. In the huge camps outside Sittwe the conditions are bad. Very few NGO’s are allowed to work in the camps a few hours a day. There are no schools, no money, very little food and very little health care. There are a few clinics but often times there are no doctors.
"Many have tried to flee to Bangladesh, but when there were too many, the military in Bangladesh pushed the boats back."
"... the government has placed land mines along the border to try to keep Rohingya from returning."
"...Rohingya does not exist..."
In the Buddhist country of Myanmar, Rohingya is seen as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. But Rohingya has lived in the area for centuries. Now they no longer have a home. Many have tried to flee to Bangladesh, but when there were too many, the military in Bangladesh pushed the boats back. Some have tried to flee to Malaysia and Thailand, but there they are also not welcome. After new clashes, hundreds of thousands flee to Bangladesh, but Bangladesh itself has major problems with overpopulation and cannot handle the many refugees. The bad situation in Bangladesh camps causes some to try to return to Myanmar, but the government has placed land mines along the border to try to keep Rohingya from returning. Rohingya has no country, no where they can call home and nobody wants them in their country. The government in Myanmar even says that Rohingya does not exist, only Bengali who should return to Bangladesh and leave Myanmar.
By Michael Drost-Hansen