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Asian crisis: Myanmar rejects responsibility for Rohingyas

A woman in a camp in Myanmar suffering from famine. Photo: Getty

Asian crisis: Myanmar rejects responsibility for Rohingyas
May 29
04:02 2015

Bangkok: Myanmar has refused to accept responsibility for South-East Asia’s migrant crisis as the country faces a barrage of criticism for its decades-long persecution of Rohingya Muslims.

Htein Lin, the head of Myanmar’s delegation to a 17-nation meeting in Bangkok to discuss the crisis on Friday, said his country will not accept being singled out for blame.

“We are going there only to discuss the regional crisis which all of ASEAN countries are facing,” he said.

As participants to the Bangkok meeting arrived in Bangkok, the United Nations Security Council in New York held a closed-door briefing on the human rights situation in Myanmar, the country also called Burma that only three years ago won international praise for ending 50 years of brutal military rule.

UN human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein told the briefing that 1.3 million Rohingyas in Myanmar’s Arakan state faced “institutional discrimination”, council diplomats said.

“They are often violently abused by smugglers, hundreds recently dying at sea,” Prince Zeid was quoted as saying.

Prince Zeid said the crisis demands a comprehensive response to the “root causes”, a reference to Myanmar that refuses to give Rohingya citizenship and other basic rights despite that they have lived in Myanmar for centuries.

Many countries and world leaders have urged Myanmar to end the crisis that has seen tens of thousands of persecuted Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants and asylum seekers make the perilous journey across the Bay of Bengal in the largest movement of people in the region.

Several Nobel Peace Prize winners called the treatment of Rohingya “nothing less than genocide” at the end of a three-day conference in Norway.

But Thailand’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister Tanasak Patimapagorn said there should be no blame game, an apparent attempt to bring Myanmar into a region-wide agreement.

“Our point is not to blame the country of origin,” Mr Tanasak told the Bangkok Nation.

“We have to protect our friends (neighbouring countries) too. No one wants to see this problem,” he said when asked how the root cause of the problem should be solved.

But Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said her country’s representatives “will bring strong messages regarding the importance of addressing the root cause of the migrant issue, emphasizing a collaborative effort in uprooting the practice of human trafficking and urging more parties to share the moral obligation of handling irregular migrants”.

Mr Tanasak said the medium term goal was to seek ways to prevent migrants from attempting to enter countries without documentation while the longer-term aim was to improve living standards in the countries of origin, a reference to Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Three of the countries central to ending the crisis – Myanmar, Indonesia and Malaysia – have not sent foreign ministers to the meeting, only senior officials.

Regional nations are disappointed that Australia ruled out even before the talks began accepting any of thousands of Rohingyas and Bangladeshis who have landed in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in recent weeks after Thailand cracked down on human trafficking networks.

Images of the starving and distressed people caused international outrage.

Several thousand more migrants and asylum seekers could still be adrift at sea after being abandoned by traffickers.

Australia sent Andrew Goledzinowski, ambassador for people smuggling issues, to the meeting.

The United States, which has said it would consider accepting for resettlement some of the most vulnerable migrants and asylum seekers, sent a high-level delegation led by Anne Richard, assistant secretary of state for population, refugees and migration.

But the US has made clear there must be an international response to the crisis and that resettlement must be only one part of a wider effort to address the root causes of the mass exodus from Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Malaysia and Indonesia agreed last week to provide migrants one year-shelter and both countries have called on the international community to help with resettlement options.

Thailand, which has more than 1000 refugees, mostly from Myanmar, living in border camps, has offered humanitarian help but not shelter.

Volker Turk, a senior official with the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said the complex crisis could not be solved in a day but called the meeting “a good beginning.”

Mr Turk said resolving the issue of Rohingya was vital.

“If that’s not currently possible because of the law, making sure they are given an equivalent status, a legal status, is incredibly important to resolving this crisis,” he said.

The US Navy is conducting daily maritime surveillance flights from Malaysia to try to locate boats with people stranded at sea.

In Malaysia, authorities say they have found 139 bodies buried in jungle death camps.

They are believed to be Rohingyas and Bangladeshis who had fled across the Bay of Bengal but were then held captive ruthless human traffickers who attempted to extort money from their relatives.

Similar mass graves were found in Thailand early in May.

Note:Changes have been made,The Sydney Morning in not responsible for these.

Source:The Sydney Morning.



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