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Myanmar envoy brands Rohingya 'ugly as ogres'

Senior official wrote insisted the Muslim tribe should not be described as being from Myanmar. -AFP

Wed, Feb 11, 2009
AFP

HONG KONG -Myanmar's senior official in Hong Kong has described the Rohingya boatpeople as "ugly as ogres", as a high-profile refugee case has highlighted the group's plight, a report said Wednesday.

The country's Consul General Ye Myint Aung wrote to heads of foreign missions in Hong Kong and local newspapers insisting the Muslim tribe should not be described as being from Myanmar, the South China Morning Post reported.

'In reality, Rohingya are neither Myanmar people nor Myanmar's ethnic group,' he said.

The envoy contrasted the "dark brown" Rohingya complexion with the "fair and soft" skin of people from Myanmar, according to the Post.

'It is quite different from what you have seen and read in the papers. (They are as ugly as ogres),' Ye Myint Aung was said to have written.

The Rohingya are stateless and face religious and ethnic persecution from Myanmar's military regime, forcing thousands to take to rickety boats each year in a bid to escape poverty and oppression, rights groups say.

But Myanmar's junta denies the existence of the Rohingya as an ethnic group in the mainly Buddhist country and says the migrants are Bangladeshis.

Thailand's military was accused in January of towing hundreds of Rohingya out to sea in poorly equipped boats with scant food and water after they tried to flee Myanmar, a charge Thailand has "categorically denied".

The accusations surfaced after nearly 650 Rohingya were rescued off India and Indonesia, some saying they had been beaten by Thai soldiers. Hundreds of the boat people are still believed to be missing at sea.

The case has raised the profile of the group's struggle, prompting Ye Myint Aung's letter, the Post said.

No one from Myanmar's Hong Kong consulate was immediately available to comment when contacted by AFP.

 
 
 
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