Thousands of men, women and children from a minority group in Myanmar called the Rohingya are desperate enough to risk death and slavery to escape the country as refugees in search of a better life.
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Smith and his team have been documenting abuses in Myanmar for several years. To see what the Rohingya people face, Woodruff traveled for ABC News’ “Nightline” with Smith to northern Myanmar, where most of the Rohingya population of just over 1 million people lives.
“There has been systematic human rights violations committed against the Rohingya Muslim population for decades,” said Smith. “Population control measures are in place, attempts to prevent birth, restrictions on freedom of movement, forced labor is common.”
The Rohingya were stripped of their citizenship in 1982, but the latest bout of repression began in 2012, when rising tensions between the ethnically Muslim group and Buddhist communities were incited by U Wirathu, leading to violent clashes.
U Wirathu is a Buddhist monk who has been called the “Burmese [Osama] Bin Laden” and actively preaches against the Rohingya minority. During the clashes, entire Rohingya neighborhoods were burned to the ground, and more than 140,000 Rohingya were forced to move into oppressive camps on the outskirts of Sittwe, the capital of Rakhine state.
The camps have been called the world’s largest outdoor prison, where Rohingya movements are highly restricted. Police guard the few exits. They can’t leave the camps to attend school, work or seek medical care. Children who are born in the camps are not issued birth certificates and are stateless.
“All of the people here were essentially burned out of…