Zaw Min Htut has been working for Rohingyas’ rights through the Burmese Rohingya Association of Japan since he fled Burma in 1998. Prior to that he was a student activist in Burma, and was detained for his participation in protests in 1996.
Some refugees fled Burma after the military’s violent crackdown on student protests in 1988; a few had fled fighting in Kachin State last year. Others said they had come to India to live freely and without harassment from the Burmese military government. All of them talked about returning, though.
∫The Yamuna Clinic occupies the second floor of a faded building in a dusty Burmese neighborhood in west Delhi. A dark cement staircase opens onto a balcony and a waiting room where about a dozen Burmese refugees sit on wooden benches.
Life for Burmese refugees is difficult in India. Because they are not citizens and are different culturally and linguistically from the local population, many are ostracized and persecuted. Travel costs, language difficulties, and the risk of lost wages from missing work prevent many Burmese from accessing healthcare.
The Burmese government signed an agreement last week with the International Labor Organization to end forced labor in the country by 2015, but three years is far too long to wait.