101 EAST










DURATION:         26’00”


















101 EAST








101 EAST


STEVE CHAO (VO):  For generations, Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar have faced persecution.  In August this year, armed Rohingya fighters fought back, attacking security checkpoints.  It led to a brutal crackdown by Myanmar’s military, prompting hundreds of thousands of Rohingya to flee into neighbouring Bangladesh.  Now they’re struggling to survive in crowded, muddy camps. 


STEVE CHAO:  I’m Steve Chao.  On this episode, 101 East investigates the uncertain future facing a people unwanted, and unable to return home.







HASINA (DUBBED):  At 8 am on Wednesday, they came and started shooting.  The men were stabbed and slaughtered.  It took them until the afternoon to kill all the men.  After the men were killed, they took away the women who had children.  When they took the mothers, they threw their children to the ground, and killed them. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Such stories of horror and fear have driven more than 600,000 Rohingya out of Myanmar.  Hour after hour, the stream of refugees crossing the border into Bangladesh never ends.  The numbers and speed of this exodus surpass anything seen in recent times.  Exhausted, traumatised, young and old struggle through the mud. 


DREW AMBROSE:  Some of these refugees have been walking for three days, in the rainforest, in searing heat, in weather like this.  But this is only the beginning of the hardship.


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  The starving Rohingya take any help on offer.  The Bangladeshi Army has set up this aid post for the new arrivals.  They’re desperate now.  But these refugees say they are fleeing something far worse - decades of persecution from Myanmar’s government and military.  The surge in violence over recent months has been described by the UN as ethnic cleansing.  Others have called it genocide. 


MUJIBUR (DUBBED):  They take the babies and throw them into the blazing fire.  If we try to rescue them, they shoot us.


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Mujibur Rahman is only 19.


MUJIBUR (DUBBED):  They beat us, burnt us, slaughtered us.  My uncle was murdered when he went to get his cattle.  People cannot move freely from one place to another.  They shoot us and kill us.  They tell us to go back to Bangladesh. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Escaping in the middle of the night, he led 14 members of his family to safety.


MUJIBUR (DUBBED):  Along the way, we always had to watch out for the military looking this way and that, to check whether the route was safe.  If they saw us in the jungle, they would shoot at us.  That’s how we came here by walking, and fearing that the military would kill us along the way. 


MALE (DUBBED):  How many people?





DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Mujibur joins the queue for rations of rice, sugar and a little cash.


MUJIBUR (DUBBED):  Be careful ... go slowly.


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Then he and his family are packed onto a truck headed for the refugee camp.  It will be a bumpy two hour journey.


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  From morning to night, the refugees are dumped by the side of the road near the camps, with no idea what to do next. 


MUJIBUR (DUBBED):  We have never been here.  We don’t know anybody.  So we were just sitting there, wondering where we should go. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  The next morning, we find Mujibur and his family sheltering in a school.  The ordeal is beginning to take a toll on everyone. 


MUJIBUR (SUBTITLES):  I’m starving this morning.  We ate last night, but today there’s no food.  We’ll just have to share what little we have.  We can take it ... but the children cannot.


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Mujibur is overwhelmed. 


MUJIBUR (SUBTITLES):  Where will we stay?  I don’t know anywhere here ... Otherwise I could go somewhere and do something.


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  His mother is worried too.


MUJIBUR’S MOTHER (SUBTITLES):  Our health is deteriorating day by day.  I’m worrying about where should we go with the children ... to live, to eat, to stay together.

MUJIBUR (SUBTITLES):  I told you we shouldn’t leave.

MUJIBUR’S MOTHER (SUBTITLES):  We didn’t come because we had no food ... we came because of the torture.  It’s not because we wanted the life here. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  In Myanmar the family owned a small shop and house.  Now they have nothing.  Mujibur shows us the title deeds to their properties, but the Myanmar government does not recognise their ownership. 


MUJIBUR (DUBBED):  They say, “This is not your country, where are you from?  You are all Bengali.” But we have documents of our property. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Rohingya like Mujibur are also denied education, healthcare and freedom of movement.  Despite living in Myanmar for generations, the Rohingya are not considered citizens – instead, they’re branded illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. 


DREW AMBROSE:  So where, where are we going?  Whereabouts are we headed?


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  There’s no time to lose.  The family will have to leave the school in two days when classes resume.  Mujibur and his father need to quickly find somewhere to live.  So they venture deep into what is now one of the largest refugee camps in the world.  They’ve been given a phone number for someone from their village who might be able to help them.


MUJIBUR (DUBBED):  If I go to them, I hope they will help me.  If I can meet them, they may help me to build a shelter. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  But the camp is chaotic and phone reception is patchy.


MUJIBUR (DUBBED):  This is such a big camp.  I haven’t found the person I’m looking for.  I don’t know where to find him.  I don’t know what to do. 


DREW AMBROSE:  This camp is huge.  It’s going to be like finding a needle in a haystack.


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  As night draws closer, Mujibur is losing hope.  But then, he sees a familiar face in the crowd - a fishmonger from his village. 


MUJIBUR (SUBTITLES):  Where is Ma Salleh?

MALE (SUBTITLES):  Ma Salleh is staying over there ... after that road. 

MALE (SUBTITLES):  Whereabouts over there?

MALE (SUBTITLES):  There place is that side, ours is the other side.

MUJIBUR (SUBTITLES):  Can we go there?

MALE (SUBTITLES):  Yes you can go there.

MUJIBUR (SUBTITLES):  Will you show me?  Can you show us how to get there?

MALE (SUBTITLES):  Yes, I’ll show you. 

DREW AMBROSE:  That’s pretty good news.

MUJIBUR:  Yes, yes.

DREW AMBROSE:  Good luck.


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Mujibur is eager to go.  So we say farewell and agree to meet up later. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Humanitarian workers say they were caught unprepared by the speed and size of the Rohingya exodus.  As refugee numbers soar, there’s a severe shortage of food.  They have to queue for hours. 


DREW AMBROSE:  When you look into people’s eyes, all you see is sheer desperation.  But the military are doing whatever they can to keep things under control.


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Bangladeshi soldiers aren’t only coordinating aid efforts.  They’re also here to stop Rohingya refugees from leaving the camps.  Conditions are dire.  Poor sanitation means the risk of a cholera outbreak is very real.


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  International agencies have rushed vaccines into the camps, but there’s no guarantee they can stop a health disaster.  Most of the refugees are women and children.  Hunger is hitting hard. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  In a makeshift medical tent run by Bangladeshi volunteers, Hasina is hoping to get some medicine for her six week-old daughter. 


DREW AMBROSE:  What symptoms does your baby have?


HASINA:  (DUBBED):  The baby is coughing and there’s also blood in her stool, and she cannot drink milk properly.  I don’t have money, otherwise I could’ve gotten medicine from outside.


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Back in her own shelter, Hasina tells me while the situation here is desperate, Myanmar is no place for a Rohingya baby.


HASINA (DUBBED):  In my country, when the military comes, we leave everything at home and just run.  I have seen them throw a baby into a blazing fire with my own eyes.  I have also seen them throw a baby onto a hot corrugated iron roof of a burning hut and the baby was cut into pieces.  They snatched a baby from a mother and threw it onto a burning fire. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  To escape the same fate, Hasina ran from her village to save her unborn baby.  After giving birth in the jungle, she fled to Bangladesh with her family.


HASINA (DUBBED):  The baby has not had milk for three to four days.  I don’t have enough milk because I haven’t eaten enough. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  During our time with her, Hasina’s little girl hardly cried.  We go with her to a malnutrition clinic.


DOCTOR (SUBTITLES):  The situation is very bad ... Because the baby is not getting enough nutrients without your milk.  The is an infection in the lungs ... and we need to give her treatment ... but we can’t do it here. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Her baby needs emergency care, and they are sent to a hospital two hours away.


DREW AMBROSE:  The doctor before said if we don’t get this little girl to the hospital, she might die. 


DREW AMBROSE:  I think she’s starting to realise what a grave situation this could be.


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Hasina and her daughter are whisked away to a special paediatric ward.  The hospital staff quickly get to work, and the little girl finally shows some signs of life.   


HASINA (DUBBED):  I will stay here until my baby gets well.  I’m happy.  I didn’t have money, so I couldn’t get treatment until I was admitted here.


REFUGEE IN BED:  Allah, Allah, Allah.


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  This hospital treats the worst cases from the refugee crisis.  Everyone here has a terrible story.  While shielding her baby, this mother claims she was shot multiple times by the military


SENOWARA (SUBTITLES):  The bullets hit here, and here ... and my foot.  Four shots altogether.  I was in the middle of a pile of dead bodies ... lying in a pool of blood. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Villagers dragged her unconscious body to safety.


SENOWARA (SUBTITLES):  It took 7 days to cross over to Bangladesh.  People carried me on their backs ... we left everything behind


SENOWARA (SUBTITLES):  My injuries are still painful.  The bullet is still inside. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  In another bed, a father tells me how his six year-old daughter was badly burnt in a rocket launcher attack.


DREW AMBROSE:  So what injuries did your daughter sustain?

FATHER (SUBTITLES):  The whole of her right leg is burned ... both legs ... burned all over, including the feet.  Her legs are broken ... so the doctor has put in two iron rods. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Myanmar denies targeting civilians and blames the crisis on the Rohingya themselves.  In August, armed fighters from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army attacked a number of security posts with homemade weapons.  Buddhist mobs and the Myanmar military hit back with fury, razing hundreds of Rohingya villages to the ground.


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Refugees say one of the most gruesome mass killings took place in the rice farming village of Tula Toli.  Two women who narrowly escaped, agree to meet with me. 


DREW AMBROSE:  These women will only speak to me inside their hut, because they are so traumatised by what they endured, they don’t want anyone to hear. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Inside the tent, I meet Hasina and her sister in law, Asma.  Hasina tells me the day began with a bloodbath. 


HASINA (DUBBED):  The men were stabbed and slaughtered.  When they took the mothers, they threw their children to the ground, and killed them. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Hasina’s 16 month old baby was also killed.


HASINA (DUBBED):  When they took us, along the way, my baby was taken from me and thrown to the ground, and then into a fire.  Right in front of me. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Soldiers took Hasina, her sister-in-law Asma and two other women to a house.  They blindfolded them with scarves.


HASINA (DUBBED):  They took off all my clothes.  They started raping us.  After the rape, whoever was still breathing was stabbed with a knife and left to die.  My sister-in-law was raped and hit with bamboo.  I don’t know what happened to me after that.  My head was bleeding and my jaw was broken.  Maybe around half an hour later, they set fire to the house.  When I woke up, the house was red with fire and the door was locked. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Only Hasina and Asma survived the chaos.  They found a hole in the wall and ran naked out of the burning hut.


DREW AMBROSE:  Given what you endured, could you ever go back to Myanmar?


HASINA (DUBBED):  When our house was burned, we told ourselves that since God saved us from this, we will never go back.  All of our family members died.  How can we go back there?


HASINA (DUBBED):  I suffered a lot, I almost died.  People said that we would not survive because we were carried here in sacks and we were bleeding along the way.  [crying]



AUNG SAN SUU KYI:  The security forces have been instructed to adhere strictly to the code of conduct in carrying out security operations, to exercise all due restraint and to take full measures to avoid collateral damage and the harming of innocent civilians. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Aung San Suu Kyi is the head of Myanmar’s civilian government, but has no control over the military.  Despite overwhelming evidence of rape, arson and violence, the Nobel Peace Prize winner says she doesn’t know why the Rohingya are fleeing her country.


AUNG SAN SUU KYI:  Nevertheless we are concerned to hear that numbers of Muslims are fleeing across the border to Bangladesh.  We want to find out why this exodus is happening.  We would like to talk to those who have fled, as well as to those who have stayed. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  I’ve come to Myanmar’s biggest city, Yangon.  It’s clear to see there’s strong support for Aung San Suu Kyi, but only fear and anger towards the Rohingya.


VOXPOP 1 (SUBTITLES):  They attack the ethnic Myanmar people like terrorists.  So Myanmar’s armed forces must fight back. 


VOXPOP 2 (SUBTITLES):  I don’t want to accept back these people who flee the country ... because they don’t want to live here.  I don’t want to accept them. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Even those who’ve suffered under the violent hand of Myanmar’s military want nothing to do with the Rohingya.  Jimmy U was a political prisoner who for decades fought against Myanmar’s military regime.  But this time he’s supporting them. 


DREW AMBROSE:  You were arrested, imprisoned and spent 20 years in jail, treated badly by the military.  Why isn’t this another example of injustice in Myanmar?


JIMMY (SUBTITLES):  It’s a very different situation.  To blame the Myanmar government, or the Myanmar army or Myanmar people is not workable. 

DREW AMBROSE:  But has the military in Myanmar really changed?

JIMMY (SUBTITLES):  Yup.  Yes.  Now they are deeply involved in the peace process. 


DREW AMBROSE:  The United Nations, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have all condemned the actions of the Myanmar army.  Why have they got it wrong?


JIMMY (SUBTITLES):  It is very strange ... very strange.  I can’t understand why they’re making fake news.  Everybody in our country has worries about Islamic expansion in our country.


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Back in Bangladesh, Mujibur, the young man I met earlier, explains what it’s like to live with that hatred.


MUJIBUR (DUBBED):  To them, there’s no Rohingya ethnicity.  So when they see us, they want to finish us off.  That’s why they are committing genocide. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  But Mujibur has no time to dwell on what’s happening back in Myanmar..  Today he and his father have started building a new home for the family on the fringes of the camp. 


MUJIBUR (DUBBED):  The weather is unbearably hot.  The whole of my body burns.  The children are getting heat rash.  There are no trees, there is no shelter.


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Up here, you can clearly see the size of this camp.  More than 300,000 Rohingya were already living here before the latest exodus began.  Since August, the population has tripled.  Everyone here is desperately trying to survive.


DISASTERS EMERGENCY CO ... [obliterated by timecode]


DREW AMBROSE:  When you see these makeshift huts sprawling across the hills, you think to yourself, “What’s going to happen when the monsoon comes?  And what happens if there’s a mudslide?”


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  And there are plenty of other things that could go wrong.  The shelter I saw Mujibur working so hard to build is already destroyed.  Last night, a wild elephant trampled his home.  Now he has to build a new shelter from scratch.  But his first task of the day is to buy a water jug. 


MUJIBUR (SUBTITLES):  I’m from Myanmar, I’m poor.  Can you give me a discount?

SHOPKEEPER (SUBTITLES):  Okay, I’ll give you a discount.  The normal price is 450 taka ... but my final price for you is 335 taka ($4).


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  He also needs new tarpaulin sheets - but his money is fast running out. 


MUJIBUR (SUBTITLES):  How long is this?


MUJIBUR (SUBTITLES):  How much is it? Will you sell it for 200 taka ($2.30)?  My place was destroyed by elephants.  That’s why I’m asking for a low price.  I don’t have much money left.  Please, agree with that price.

SHOPKEEPER (SUBTITLES):  Do you want it?

MUJIBUR (SUBTITLES):  Yes, I want it. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Mujibur is frustrated he can’t do more to help his family . 


MUJIBUR (DUBBED):  I’m not happy because I have to manage all of the necessary things, like putting up the tent and carrying water.  The children are crying and need clothes.  I don’t feel happy because there is no job here. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Bangladesh is grappling with how to deal with more than half a million people who have landed on its doorstep.  The government has announced plans to build a new mega camp.  It also wants to move some refugees to a flood-prone island.  Myanmar has also offered to take back Rohingya who recently fled, but only if they can prove they lived there. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  And that’s if any of these people want to return.  For many, there’s nothing left back home but memories of death and brutal violence.  It’s not surprising some are already planning another way out.


DREW AMBROSE:  Hey Mujibur, how are you?  Good to see you again.  Down there?  Alright. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Since the wild elephant attack, Mujibur has already built a new shelter for his family.


DREW AMBROSE:  So this is your new home?

MUJIBUR (DUBBED):  Yeah, I just built this.  It’s not yet complete.  I will finish it slowly.  Since morning there’s been heavy rain, so I couldn’t do anything today. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  But he doesn’t see Bangladesh as a long-term solution and says if the situation doesn’t improve, he’ll turn to human traffickers. 


MUJIBUR(DUBBED):  If there are no rights here, we will go wherever we can find rights, even if we die along the way.  We will go to Malaysia.  If we can’t go by boat, we will walk there, if there is a way. 


DREW AMBROSE (VO):  Mujibur won’t be alone.  The UN has warned the next wave of trafficking is just beginning.  Even before this latest mass exodus, desperate Rohingya took their chances with people smugglers - only to be abandoned at sea off the coast of Malaysia, or buried in mass graves in Thailand.  But with no country to return to and an uncertain future in these camps, Asia’s most unwanted people will continue to search for a place to call home. 







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