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‘I Had No Options’: The Rohingya Man Who Smuggled Himself


Buddhist monks and Yangon residents protest the arrival of an aid ship bringing humanitarian supplies to Rohingya Muslims in Yangon in February 2017.SOE ZEYA TUN / REUTERS

February 5 -- The Atlantic


YANGON, Myanmar—By Kamal’s own admission, his family used to be “very rich.” His father owned a successful trading business, which sent fish and thanaka—a fragrant cosmetic paste made from tree bark—to be sold in neighboring Bangladesh. Their home in Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine State in western Myanmar (also known as Burma), was a two-story structure in a busy quarter, and Kamal, a Muslim, taught English at a local church.


But when I met him, he was sitting idly near his new house in a village filled with rickety homes, where the roads and footpaths had been turned to slippery mud by the heavy monsoon. His family were forced to flee Sittwe as roving mobs of Buddhists destroyed the homes of their Muslim neighbors. Violence had convulsed Rakhine State, where the Buddhist majority clashed with the Rohingya community, a minority Muslim group that has been the object of discrimination for decades here in Myanmar. The relative wealth of Kamal’s family was no factor—the violence had, in a way, served as a great equalizer, turning the Rohingya into a monolithic community, detested more than ever before.


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