Rohingya people of Myanmar: 'Nobody should have to live like this'
4 June 2007
Morshed Mahabub was born in the eastern Teknaf region, which borders Myanmar. Since October 2006, he has worked for MSF as a translator. He helps the team provide medical and humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya people, a Muslim minority from Myanmar. In recent years, many Rohingyas have fled from discrimination and abuses in their own country. After studying marketing at school and working as a marketing executive at a cement factory, he decided to join MSF. "I know MSF from long ago, when I was in primary school. Every morning I could see all the MSF staff coming by bus from the town of Cox Bazaar. They were a big group, about 60 people. The bus used to stop right in front of my house. The people were going to the Nyapara refugee camp, one of only two camps still remaining today. At that time, in 1992, MSF had a large intervention for the Rohingyas as there had been an influx of 250,000 people crossing the border from Myanmar. "MSF stopped that intervention three years ago, but re-opened a project last year to help the thousands of unregistered refugees living in the makeshift and squalid Tal camp. That is when I applied and came back to work for MSF as a translator. I wanted to do charity work for an international NGO that I knew and trusted. "In my daily work, I help the international staff to talk to the patients. I translate documents, training material, and news on the 'Rohingya problem' that remains unsolved after so many years. Sometimes I regret that I didn't study medicine. I see so much need here. These people come here because of things that happen to them in Myanmar. They tell us stories about many abuses including land confiscation, forced labour and so on. "The Rohingyas come here and although they are discriminated against, they manage to find work in the salt fields, in the harbour, or in fishing or farming. It is very hard work, but at least they survive. Rohingyas have been in Bangladesh for a long time. In the Chittagong region, many people have Rohingya origins. They came earlier, in the late 1970s. At that time, land was cheap and they made money. They gained a Bangladeshi passport. But now it's different for them. They are no longer welcome." "The work that MSF is doing here is very important for these people. We are the only organisation providing medical care and humanitarian assistance. Without MSF, they would have very limited access to local health facilities. The Rohingyas living in Tal camp are not registered and are denied refugee status. They are considered illegal, economic migrants. They receive no assistance outside MSF and no protection. They live on a very provisional and inappropriate stretch of land. MSF is providing them with healthcare and trying to raise attention for their plight. Nobody should have to live like this."