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SITTWE, Myanmar—I first came to the Rohingya detainment camps outside the town of Sittwe in Myanmar in 2013, following the burning of Muslim Rohingya villages in northwestern parts of the country. 

Long-running but low-simmering mistrust between the majority Buddhists and minority Rohingya Muslims had erupted the year previously, after a band of Rohingya men were blamed for the rape and murder of a Buddhist woman. Buddhist nationalists set fire to houses and murdered close to 300 Rohingya Muslims, forcing tens of thousands to abandon their homes.

Now around 140,000 Rohingya Muslims live in miserable refugee camps. The Myanmar government will not allow them to leave, but has made sure that the majority of them will not become citizens, having stripped them of the right to vote in February. Many Rohingya Muslim families have lived in Myanmar for more than a century, but the government refers to them as migrants from Bangladesh, and will not grant them citizenship unless they can document a family history in Myanmar that goes back 60 years, a requirement they know the vast majority of them cannot meet. Read more…

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