Push for positive change in Myanmar
By Neville Spykerman
October 20, 2014
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia should use its regional and international influence to promote positive changes in Myanmar to stem the tide of people fleeing that country, a Bar Council official said.
Datuk M. Ramachelvam (pic), who co-chairs the council’s migrants, refugees and immigration affairs committee, said Malaysia could take the lead in this matter since it now sits in the UN Security Council and is due to take over the Asean chair next year.
“Malaysia is in a perfect position to push for a regional solution to the problem of refugees and asylum seekers,” he said during the launch here on Friday of reports on the stateless Rohingya community in Malaysia and Thailand.
The reports were compiled by the London-based Equal Rights Trust and the Institute for Human Rights and Peace Studies (IHRP) of Mahidol University, Bangkok.
The reports, the result of more than three years of in-depth research, analysis and field work by a multi-disciplinary international team, include direct testimony by the Rohingya people and interviews with key government officials dealing with the issues.
They range from Rohingya children being unable to access education because their births were not registered by the authorities to Rohingya women and children being detained and starved and men tortured and beaten while being trafficked.
Ramachelvam quoted a UN report that described the Rohingyas as the most persecuted ethnic community in the world.
He said it was in Malaysia’s interest for conditions in Myanmar to improve for their minorities, so that those who fled could return.
Ramachelvam said Malaysia hosted nearly 138,800 refugees of various ethnicities from Myanmar, including about 39,700 Rohingyas.
“The governments of Asean must hold the authorities in Myanmar accountable for the oppression, inhuman treatment and the denial of rights of the Rohingya,” Ramachelvam said.
Equal Rights Trust executive director Dr Dimitrina Petrova said both Malaysia and Thailand should take leadership roles to ensure the human rights protection of the Rohingyas was prioritised and addressed.
She added that tackling the issue needed the combined efforts of the international community.
“The problem won’t go away. It is time for the governments to convene and start talking,” Dr Petrova said.
Present at the launch of the reports at the Raja Aziz Addruse Auditorium in the Straits Trading Building were Dr Sripapha Petcharmesree, from the IHRP, and Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, Malaysia’s representative to the Asean Inter-governmental Commission on Human Rights.