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The surge of migrants and refugees from Bangladesh and Myanmar, on unstable boats and headed towards an unknown horizon in Indonesia and Malaysia, has shaken human conscience. Unwanted in their home countries these people are virtually prisoners of unscrupulous human smuggling networks spread across South and Southeast Asia. The discovery of mass graves in northern Malaysia illustrates this saga of cruelty and exploitation of the powerless.

Not unlike the drama unfolding in the Mediterranean Sea — where people from Africa are dying in bids to enter Europe — the plight of the Bangladeshis and Rohingyas adrift in the Andaman Sea poses thorny policy challenges.

While Malaysia and Indonesia have resolved to proactively rescue the floundering vessels, the government of Myanmar has not cooperated in stemming the outflow of Rohingyas.
Frequent pogroms by Buddhist militant outfits against the Muslim Rohingyas have been occurring in Myanmar with the complicity of the State. Absolute intolerance for the Rohingyas has been mainstreamed in Myanmar, with even so-called civil society activists deeming them as interlopers who must be deported to Bangladesh.

Such is the complicity of silence that the democracy icon of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, has also not dared to educate her nation to embrace the approximately 1.5 million Rohingyas.