PETALING JAYA: A group representing Rohingya refugees has urged Putrajaya to follow Bangladesh’s lead by opening up opportunities for the formal education of refugee children.
Zafar Abdul Ghani, who heads the Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation of Malaysia, said there was a need for such an initiative by the government because currently, schools established by the United Nations and volunteer groups were insufficient for the large number of Rohingya children in the country.
He said his group could provide inputs to the agencies responsible for the undertaking and could monitor the progress of the initiative.
The Bangladesh government last Tuesday announced that it would lift restrictions on education for young Rohingya refugees. “We don’t want a lost generation of Rohingya,” said Dhaka’s foreign minister AK Abdul Momen. “They will follow Myanmar curricula.”
Zafar told FMT he believed formal education and technical training would reduce the vulnerability of young Rohingya to trafficking and exploitation.
“This is important as education is a basic human right and crucial for genocide survivors to continue our ongoing struggle for freedom,” he said. “Without education, our voice will be denied.”
Glorene Das, who heads the human rights group Tenaganita, noted that Bangladesh’s refugee population was five times the size of Malaysia’s and said Dhaka’s decision was a wake-up call for Putrajaya.
She said the government should recognise the reality that refugees would remain in the country for a long time and urged it to stop hoping for their repatriation or resettlement in another country.
Zafar said forced repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar would be a breach of international laws, adding that it would not resolve the plight of the community.
He called on the government to refrain from sending Rohingya refugees back to Myanmar until the alleged genocide is over and their rights as citizens of their home country are fully recognised and protected.
He also urged Putrajaya to increase its pressure on the Myanmar government, such as by cutting trade ties with the country, to end the persecution.