No takers yet for the Rohingya

msa
By August 14, 2013 10:01

Supalak Ganjanakhundee
The Nation
August 14, 2013 1:00 am

FOUR YEARS AGO, when Thailand faced strong criticism due to the bad treatment it gave to the Rohingya boat people, the leaders of Asean offered a leeway by suggesting that a regional mechanism known as the ‘Bali Process’ could be used to resolve the problem.

It provided great relief for the then Thai government, but the problem did not go away and continues to this day.

The issue of the Rohingya was discussed at high level diplomatic forums when thousands of these people took a chance, sailing in small boats from somewhere on the borders of Bangladesh and Myanmar or western Myanmar’s Rakhine state. They were heading, they hoped, to Indonesia and Malaysia, where Muslims comprise a majority of the population.

Hundreds made it to Thailand, whose naval officers kindly pushed them back to the high seas with little food and water.

Many ended up in Indonesia’s Aceh while some floated to the Indian Andaman islands. The world finally got to know their fate after news reports broke in the international media.

The plight of the Rohingya became embarrassing for Asean, as this political entity claims it is a people-caring organisation. Many of its governments declared they loved Muslims who were brothers in spirit of their own citizens.

Leaders and ministers from concerned ASEAN countries sat together to talk, but failed to find a common solution. Despite saying they would not export the problem to other countries, they shifted the issue to a larger forum, the Bali process.

Established in 2002, the Bali process involved more than 50 countries committed to help combat human-trafficking and related transnational crime in the Asia-Pacific.

The Bali process was held in Indonesia in April 2009 but failed to find a concrete solution to the Rohingya problem. They had an excuse – that Myanmar, then still under the military junta, did not recognise the Rohingya, whom they consider Bengalis, as their citizens.

The Bali process still rolls on. Its fifth foreign ministers’ meeting was held in April this year but not a single mention appeared in the chairman’s statement after the meeting about the problems of the Rohingya.

Indonesian Foreign Affairs Minister Marty Natalegawa and his Bangladeshi counterpart Dipu Moni held a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Bali talks to discuss the Rohingya issue, but no specific action on the problem was reported.

The most recent ASEAN ministerial meeting in June in Brunei dwelt on the need to tackle the issue of human trafficking, but again did not mention the Rohingya, as if it was a non-issue.

It seemed both ASEAN and the Bali process had no idea of how to handle the Rohingya problem. The issue is more complicated these days due to the sectarian conflict in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The government in Nay Pyi Taw still lacks vision and the problem is left in a heap.

In Myanmar,the Rohingya remain the alien Bengalis the majority Buddhist do not want to live with. Tension is mounting and people keep floating out to familiar places in ASEAN nations – and for many of them, eventually, jail.

This piece of news was originally posted by The Nation on: http://www.nationmultimedia.com/politics/No-takers-yet-for-the-Rohingya-30212551.html RvisionTV gives due credits to the original writers and publishers.

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By August 14, 2013 10:01

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