As if life for Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar wasn’t already difficult enough, authorities recently imposed new travel restrictions on the ethnic minority that can make access to medical treatment even harder.
Burmese news blog The Irrawaddy, members of the community will have to seek permission before traveling to Yangon, the country’s largest city, for further treatment. This could be a rather lengthy and tricky process, considering Rohingya Muslims are not even acknowledged as citizens of Myanmar.
Also, the new rules place extra financial burden on the Rohingya, a mostly poor population currently living in displaced people’s camps in the wake of the bloody sectarian conflict with Buddhist extremists.
“We need security to travel to the hospital in Sittwe,” Maung Maung Sein, a representative of the community, told The Irrawaddy. “We have to pay at least 20,000 to 30,000 kyats ($17-$26) to rent a car to travel from the camp to the town.”
Traveling to another city for medical treatment also brings various other expenses such food and accommodation. To understand the magnitude of the problem here, one needs to know that access to education and employment for the Rohingya is limited according to existing laws.
Therefore, for a person who is poor and doesn’t have a job, the new restrictions only make access to healthcare a next-to-impossible feat.
Furthermore, failure to comply could result in imprisonment.
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As mentioned above, Myanmar, a Buddhist-majority nation, doesn’t recognize Rohingya Muslims as its citizens, although they have been living there for centuries. Consequently, they are deprived of nearly all their basic rights.
Although both the present and former Burmese governments have denied accusations of racism, the new travel restrictions prove that discrimination against Rohingya is alive and well.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Cathal McNaughton