Life on the margins in Malaysia

Life on the margins in Malaysia
PHOTO: Nikkei Asian Review

KUALA LUMPUR - Gulajan Binti Nur Hamad was only 9 years old when she saw her house set ablaze by rampaging Buddhist mobs. "There was fire and fighting," she said, running her right hand across her throat in a hint that she had seen worse than the flames that left her family's home in ashes.

Gulajan was one of more than 140,000 Muslim Rohingya driven from their homes in 2012 during violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Myanmar's western state of Rakhine. Gulajan was left homeless when ethnic Rakhine mobs in October that year attacked the Rohingya Muslims living in the area of Kyaukphyu, an oil and gas port where a major pipeline comes ashore before traversing Myanmar to China's Yunnan Province.

Weeks after the bloodshed - Gulajan said she does not remember when exactly - she and her family boarded a boat on the Rakhine coast. Nine days later, after being cramped shoulder-to-shoulder with the 400 or so people on board, with food provided only every second day, the boat landed at the Malaysian island of Langkawi, off the coast of Penang state.

The Rohingya are a stateless minority numbering over 1 million and living mostly in western Myanmar. Gulajan, now 12, is among the tens of thousands of Rohingya who have made the journey to Malaysia, a Muslim majority country, in recent decades.

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