Monsoon Rains Threaten Rohingya Refugees

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Bottom Line: As monsoon season bears down on Southeast Asia, U.S. officials say up to a 100,000 Rohingya refugees sheltering in the hills of Bangladesh face a potential humanitarian catastrophe. They are among the 860,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims driven out of Myanmar by a violent crackdown that the U.S. has called a campaign of ethnic cleansing. But the plan to return them home is slated to take two years – and they don’t want to go, nor do their former Buddhist neighbors in Rakhine State want them. The standoff could spell further radicalization of the Rohingya, swelling the ranks of what is now a relatively small rebel movement inside Myanmar, and leading to further armed conflict and refugee flight.

Background: Oppression of the ethnic Rohingya by the people and government of Myanmar is deeply rooted in the belief that Rohingyas are illegal immigrants from the Indian state of Bengal, with no place in mostly Buddhist Myanmar. The country’s nascent transition to democracy has not improved the Rohingyas’ lot as they remain without basic legal rights.

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