In the South, a human drama is unfolding, around the flight of thousands of Rohingya from Myanmar. The past week has seen a surge of people coming into Thailand. The government is concerned, the military is angry, security officials have been diverted from their jobs. Now the United Nations is involved, and authorities will attempt to split hairs over whether the victims of this tragedy are migrants or refugees.
During the past week, when security forces in the South rounded up nearly 1,000 Rohingya, the problem became more clear. An organised effort at people-smuggling is under way, centred in Thailand but extending to neighbouring countries. The smugglers are almost without pity. They see the Rohingya strictly as a way to make illegal, immoral money. The human smuggling probably reaches into local or national politics in Thailand and nearby countries.
But amidst the problems, security threats, tangled diplomacy and human tragedy, one point is missed. The reason the Rohingya are fleeing is because their government cannot protect them. Indeed, the Myanmar authorities do not recognise that the Rohingya have even basic rights. By all accounts, the army and police of Myanmar treat the Rohingya shabbily at best, and often use violence against them.
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