ASEAN’s Rohingya Left to Die

refugees floating on boats

In a press release today, Charles Santiago, a Member of Parliament of Malaysia, from the main opposition coalition  Democratic Coalition Party has voiced his concern regarding the 800 Bangladeshi and Rohinga refugees stuck in the sea border of Malaysia. The press release which Mr. Santiago posted in his official page in a social networking site urging and criticizing Malaysian government who still refuse to allow the floating boats into it’s territory.  His press statement is mentioned as follows:
ASEAN shamelessly calls itself a people-centred bloc. And goes on to self-style the ten nation states as a caring and sharing group.

But all we have now are thousands of people stranded at sea. Rohingya women, men and children who are starving and diseased are at the mercy of the Malaysian, Thailand and Indonesian navy.

Hundreds more are at detention centers, their fate unknown. I have been made to understand that the media have not been given access to them either.

Thailand has indicated it will provide shelter to the fleeing refugees. Both Malaysia and Indonesia, in sharp contrast, have said they will send the boats back.

This is simply inhumane and atrocious. NGOs monitoring the Rohingya boat people say close to 8000 more are still drifting in sea.

So instead of mouthing about a caring society, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand must send its navy to rescue the Rohingya and Bangladeshis who are at sea.

If the three countries fail to do so now, we will have a human catastrophe in our hands.

The Rohingya have suffered decades of persecution under the Burmese military.

The UN calls them the world’s most persecuted people. As such I hope Malaysia will not secretly send the Rohingya in detention centers in Langkawi back to Burma’s killing fields.

The world is now looking at Southeast Asia and demanding some form of accountability.

Therefore pussy-footing further on this issue or hiding under the archaic cloak of the non-interference policy will not work anymore.

ASEAN is already lagging behind- the heads of states should have ironed out the thorny issue of the mass exodus of the Rohingya, which escalated further in June 2012 following state-sponsored violence, at the recently-concluded ASEAN summit.

They failed to discuss about this crucial issue as it would entail looking at Burma’s gross human rights violations against the Rohingya.

Malaysia, after being instrumental in bringing Burma into the ASEAN fold, now says it will send the thousands of Rohingya back as they are illegal immigrants.

Let’s get the facts straight here. They are refugees fleeing state-engineered violence. The Rohingya are stateless in their home country and victims of targeted killings.

And so as Chair of ASEAN, Malaysia must protect the Rohingya as opposed to sending them back to Burma to face persecution and death.

Malaysia’s foreign policy must be consistent. And as such, support for Palestine and Syria must also be extended to the Rohingya.

Charles Santiago
Member of Parliament, Klang.
Democratic Action Party

Source: Official facebook page of Charles Santiago