ASEAN PEOPLE’S FORUM 2015
21-24 APRIL 2015
REFUGEES IN ASEAN: TIME TO RESPOND PROPERLY
Myanmar produced a large number of refugees and asylum seekers in the ASEAN region every year since 1990s. Due to systematic prosecution from the Myanmar military regime, Refugees and asylum seekers fled Myanmar to the neighboring countries mainly to Bangladesh, Thailand, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Cambodia.
Malaysia became a transit country for 150,460 refugees and asylum seekers who registered with UNHCR in Kuala Lumpur. From this figure
139,200 are from Myanmar, comprising some 50,620 Chins, 40,070 Rohingyas, 12,160 Myanmar Muslims, 7,440 Rakhines & Arakaneses and other ethnicities from Myanmar.
There are some 11,260 refugees and asylum-seekers from other countries, including some 4,200 Sri Lankans, 1,200 Pakistanis, 1,120 Somalis, 970 Syrians, 860 Iraqis, 580 Iranians, 450 Palestinians, 390 Afghans, 350 Yemenis, 140 Sudanese and others from other countries.
Some 70% of refugees and asylum-seekers are men, while 30% are women. There are some 32,710 children below the age of 18.
(Source: UNCHR, Malaysia as of November 2014)
Slow Burning Genocide of Rohingya in Arakan State, Myanmar.
The Myanmar government systematically prosecutes ethnic Rohingya in Arakan State especially since 1978 during its Nagamin Operation. Estimated 300, 000 Rohingya forced to flee Arakan State to Bangladesh and 40,000 Rohingya died.
The gross human rights violations towards ethnic Rohingya continues until now in Arakan State and across Myanmar. As a result Rohingya continuously fled the countries and seek refuge mainly to Malaysia. There is no change for the Rohingya situation despite of many visits from the Human Rights Special Rapportuers, United Nations Envoys and International Organizations.
The Myanmar government aim to eliminate ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar. The government has confiscated Rohingya’s Nationality Card and the Family List. The government then issued a White Card to the ethnic Rohingya. The Rohingya refused to accept the White Card as it is issued for the temporary resident. In the White Card the Rohingya identity has been change to Bengali. Those who refused to accept has been arrested, beaten, tortured and killed. The Rohingya have to accept the White Card for the sake of their security.
Recently the Myanmar government confiscates the White Card and they were given another temporary paper with immigration stamp. We do not know what is the plan of the government, and what will come next for us.
The government also created 2 child policy for Rohingya family in order to reduce the population of Rohingya. This is another form of Genocide.
Rohingyas are dying day by day not only by the systematic prosecution by the Myanmar government but also with different ways and policies put in place to eliminate Rohingya from Myanmar.
Current Development of Rohingya in Malaysia.
On 16 April 2015, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim called on the United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees (UNHCR) to speed up the repatriation process. According to him, Malaysia will not open its doors to refugees and asylum seekers, especially to the Rohingyas from Myanmar, even under humanitarian grounds, as they have become a security threat here.
Datuk Seri Shahidan also pointing out that Malaysia is not party to the 1951 Refugee Convention or the Refugee Status Protocol 1967, he said these refugees and asylum seekers, especially the Rohingya community, could go to Cambodia or Philippines, which are signatories to the convention.
With this new development, we are very worried what will happen to us? We are made Stateless in our own country, we are unwanted in the transit country, and we are treated differently compared to other ethnic from the same country.
What are the Meaning of Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and International Convention to us?
We have everything in the world to save us from the GENOCIDE but it was not use to help us. We have the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) as a super solid declaration which guides us how we suppose to live in this world. The UDHR clearly state our rights in very detail way. Unfortunately in our cases, NONE of these RIGHTS are belong to us. It is shameful that we only can see the UDHR in a paper but we cannot embrace it in our life. All our rights have been taken away by the regimes.
WE have the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) but none of their rights are guaranteed for Rohingya children and women. Ironically children and women became the target by the regimes and suffered the most at any times.
Human lives must be given the first priority before anything else if we call ourselves as a develop nations. We must contribute in whatever way to save the Rohingyas from the continuous Genocide from the cruel and uncivilize regime.
How do we move from APF 2015?
The root cause of the problem is the systematic prosecution towards ethnic Rohingya by the Myanmar government. The solution to the Myanmar refugees and asylum seekers who scattered in the ASEAN countries is to INTERVENE directly with the Myanmar government. The Myanmar government must stop producing a large number of refugees and asylum seekers over the years for its neighboring countries.
Even though the ASEAN countries adhere to the non interference policy among its member state, the ASEAN Leaders also must recognized that now we are ONE COMMUNITY, ASEAN COMMUNITY. Therefore the ASEAN member’s state must actively engage with the Myanmar government to stop the gross human rights violations towards its ethnic groups.
This year Malaysia is the Chairman of the ASEAN. We hope Malaysia will play an important role to engage with the Myanmar government to resolve refugee issues. Malaysia is in right position to engage with Myanmar government as Malaysia is a home to 139,200 Myanmar refugees and asylum seekers.
While the ASEAN leaders engage with the Myanmar government to resolve the issues of refugees and asylum seekers, we hope the ASEAN member states will continue to protect refugees and asylums seekers in the spirit of ASEAN COMMUNITY.
Zafar Ahmad Bin Abdul Ghani
Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia (MERHROM)
Tel No: +6016-6827287