In recent weeks, the world has been horrified by the images and news coming out of Malaysia and Thailand, where thousands of migrants are stranded on boats, prevented from landing by governments unwilling to accept them as refugees. Most of the migrants are Rohingya Muslims, an ethnic minority group from Myanmar (formerly Burma), but with smaller populations in other countries, including Bangladesh and Thailand.
The Rohingya have been victims of religious and ethnic persecution for years, especially in Myanmar, a country with a poor human rights record. Here are some sources and background to help religion reporters cover the crisis.
- May 20, 2015 — Indonesia and Malaysia agree to accept some Rohingya and other migrants.
- May 19, 2015 — Pope Francis refers to the Rohingya in a Mass.
- May 12, 2015 — Both Indonesia and Malaysia refuse entry to Rohingya and other migrants set adrift by smugglers.
- May 10, 2015 — The first Rohingya and other migrants in the current wave of boats arrive onshore in the Aceh province of Indonesia.
- View “Understanding Southeast Asia’s Migrant Crisis,” a map and graphic by the New York Times.
- Read “Who are the Rohingya and why are they fleeing Myanmar?,” an explainer by Brian Pellot writing for Religion News Service, May 19, 2015.
- Read “Why are so many Rohingya migrants stranded at sea?” on the BBC website, May 18, 2015.
- Read “How to solve the Asian migrant boats crisis — expert views” in The Guardian, May 15, 2015.
- Read “Rohingya Muslims brave death at sea to escape ‘open-air prison’ in Burma” by Sara Perria for The Guardian, May 13, 2015.
- Read “Why won’t Aung San Suu Kyi say the word ‘Rohingya’?” by Brian Pellot writing for Religion News Service, Dec. 4, 2014.
- Radio Free Asia maintains a news page on the Rohingya in nine countries.
- Additional relevant ReligionLink tips include “Human trafficking: faith groups mobilize”
Organizations focused on the crisis
The Arakan Rohingya National Organisation is a London-based advocacy group that seeks self-determination and other human rights for the Rohingya of Burma (Myanmar).
The Arakan Rohingya Union is an umbrella organization of about two dozen international Rohingya groups that works for the minority group’s human and civil rights. Wakar Uddin is director general. Contact through the website.
Human Rights Watch is an independent, nongovernmental organization dedicated to protecting human rights worldwide. Contact HRW via one of its local offices.
HRW maintains an office in Asia and several experts on Burma/Myanmar. Contact through the New York office.
Greg Constantine is an American photographer currently based in Southeast Asia. He has spent years documenting the plight of the Rohingya, visiting them at refugee camps and following them on their migration. His work can be seen in Exiled to Nowhere: Burma’s Rohingya, a book and website of his work.
Daniel Feierstein is a genocide scholar at the Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is a visiting fellow at the International State Crime Initiative.
David Scott Mathieson is a senior researcher in the Asia division of Human Rights Watch. He is an expert on Burma/Myanmar and the Rohingya. Contact via Emma Daly, HRW’s communications director.
Ba Sein is a Rohingya Muslim and a blogger at Rohingya Blogger, which has become a clearinghouse of information, news and resources concerning the Rohingya. He is based in the United Kingdom. Contact via Nay San Lwin.
Valerie Hoffman is the head professor in the department of religion at the University of Illinois in Champaign, and the former director of its Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. She is an expert on Islam and in 2012 organized and participated in a conference on the Rohingya at the center.
Wakar Uddin is director general of the Arakan Rohingya Union, an umbrella organization of Rohingya advocacy groups worldwide. He is also a professor of plant pathology and microbiology at Penn State University.