The worsening situation of the Rohingyas

rohingyaBy G25

The Group of 25 (G25), joins others in expressing its serious concern on the worsening situation with the Rohingyas in Myanmar. We unreservedly condemn the atrocities being perpetrated on the Rohingya community there.

The situation is getting worse by the day. Unless the government of Myanmar is taken to task, the situation will continue to get worse.

That is only at one level, of course. Not enough people, particularly in our own country and the region, care enough about the Rohingyas. In Europe and America, as in Australia, people are generally concerned about hordes of Muslim refugees, yet again, seeking refuge on their shores. Also the Muslim countries who have the means to help, including our own, do not do so. Organisations like the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) should be at the forefront to galvanise support at the political and financial levels, as well as all other levels, globally, for this hapless community, who have for decades, been subjected to a deliberate effort by the Yangon regime to annihilate them. The ethnic cleansing going on there is as bad, if not worse, than what happened in Bosnia. At least the Bosnian Muslims were able to fight back, and as it was happening in the heart of Europe, as a direct result of the ideological defeat of communism, it was just a question of time before the civilised world reacted to what was happening. The images of starving, skeletal Bosnians, interned in concentration camps, were reminiscent of the Nazi concentration camps. It is recalled that Malaysia was at the forefront of international efforts to help the Bosnians; contributing financial assistance; as well as sending peacekeeping troops; also playing a very pronounced role in galvanising support for the Bosnians, within the OIC and at the UN; for a just solution.

In the case of the Rohingyas, however, the situation has been allowed to fester for decades. They are seen as “dark skinned interlopers” (and this view is actively encouraged by the military-backed government in Yangon); they have been denied citizenship; and, are likened, in reality, to vermin to be wiped out. The evidence against the government of Myanmar, actively encouraging and instituting, what amounts to a pogrom, against its Rohingya community, is conclusive and damning. Many sources have confirmed this, including the international press; and, international agencies, including UN bodies. Recent satellite pictures of whole villages being razed to the ground, with their inhabitants still inside their houses, also confirm the brutality and horror of the situation. That the Rohingyas have been treated with such brutality; that their fundamental human rights denied; the women raped, is well documented.

Even the people leading the pro-democracy movement in Myanmar, such as Aung San Suu Kyi, refuse to talk about the problem, pretending as if it does not exist. The West continues to view Aung San Suu Kyi, who was gifted with the Nobel Peace Prize, as an icon; indeed as it should be, given her amazing and valiant contributions; and personal sacrifices, in the cause to seek justice and democratic freedoms for her people. But on the terrible plight of the Rohingyas in her country, her silence has been deafening. Is it not incumbent for her to seek the same rights for the Rohingyas also, even if she is not in a position to do much at the moment? Obviously she fears alienating support for herself if she does.

Generally there is global “fatigue” with the refugee problem, given its scale. Despite this, Malaysia should examine ways we can help the Rohingyas. To begin with, we must first examine our own attitude towards them. There are 57,570 Rohingyas who have been accorded temporary shelter in Malaysia (UNHCR fact sheet, January 2016). Glad as they are to be out of their hell hole in Myanmar, the conditions here are really deplorable: they are not allowed to work; the children are not able to go to school; they have no access to medical treatment; the children born here are not given any papers. These are some of the problems they encounter.

It is suggested that we help make their lives less miserable by giving them some basic human needs. For instance, we should give them access to medical treatment; their children should be allowed to go to schools; those born here should be given papers; and, they should be allowed to work in the sectors that our country still has to import labour.

The result of the police investigation on the discovery of the graves, believed to be that of Rohingya refugees, in the jungles of Perlis, about a year ago, is as yet unknown. It is important that Malaysia establish its credibility by making public the police report of the investigation(s), and by charging in court the people suspected to be involved in the heinous crimes.

At the regional/international levels, Malaysia should bring the matter up formally: (a) at Asean; (b) at the OIC; (c) at the UN and other relevant international fora.

G25 is a movement of eminent Malay moderates.

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