The Rohingyas On Land – The Surau

As the stranded and unwanted Rohingyas come under the international spotlight, I realise many fellow Malaysians are unaware that there are thousands already on our soil, most with valid UNHCR refugee status.

I have photographed the community in the past and decided to visit them again today. On any working day they blend discreetly with other migrant workers such as non-Muslim Burmese, Bangladeshis and Nepalis.

Sunday is when you see them out to pray, play and to socialise among themselves. Photographing them was challenging as many were understandably suspicious of an outsider. They have endured much harassment from every side.

It took much engagement to win their trust before they agree to be photographed or to talk. I usually jot down notes on my phone or on a “Buku 555” paper booklet. Had to go by memory to put them at ease. I think I spoke to more than a hundred people and remembering everything was the challenge.

Picture is of a shop house surau and community centre used by all Muslims from Myanmar, and not just the Rohingyas.

Sony Alpha a7R, ISO 400, f4, 1/200 sec.