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Forced separation: life inside Myanmar's Rohingya and Buddhist camps

Photo: Kirsi Crowley/IRIN
Tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims are confined to camps in Rakhine state

By Kirsi Crowley
April 23, 2015

SITTWE -- After violence exploded in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine in 2012 between Muslims and the Buddhist majority, some 140,000 Rohingya now live in segregated camps. About 10,000 Buddhists also remain displaced by the conflict that still simmers three years on. 

IRIN has gained rare access to both Rohingya and Buddhist camps to sample life and attitudes across the communal divide.

The government has started collecting temporary identification cards from Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine. President Thein Sein said in February that the ID cards would expire on 31 March ahead of a referendum on constitutional amendments. 

The authorities say the move is part of a process by which the minority group can apply for formal citizenship, but only if they renounce their claim to Rohingya ethnicity and register as “Bengalis”. 

The government considers the Rohingya to be illegal immigrants from Bangladesh although many have lived in Myanmar for generations.

Yanghee Lee, the United Nations special rapporteur on Myanmar, said the expiration of the temporary ID cards made the status of the Rohingya, who are currently effectively stateless, even more uncertain.

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