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Kalla: Indonesia Must Push Myanmar to End Persecution of Rohingya

The Gambian government said it was willing and ready to take in thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi refugees stranded in Southeast Asia. (Reuters Photo/Sutanta Aditya)

By Yuli Krisna & Yoseph Kelen
June 4, 2015

Bandung/Kupang -- Vice President Jusuf Kalla says Indonesia must push Myanmar to end the discrimination and violence against the country’s Rohingya ethnic minority, as the influx of asylum seekers fleeing the country grows into an international concern.

“The Rohingya issue is actually a domestic problem [inside Myanmar],” the vice president said in his speech to open the Asian Conference of Religions for Peace in Bandung on Wednesday.

“But due to international pressure, [Myanmar] promised to provide more rights to the Rohingyas. It takes time but international pressure must continue. Therefore, [Indonesia] is asking Myanmar to be more democratic and protect its minorities and their human rights.”

Din Syamsudin, the chairman of the Indonesian Council of Ulema (MUI), said Indonesia could also use its role as a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to put pressure on Myanmar, a latecomer to the 10-member bloc.

“Indonesia could rally other Asean countries to put pressure on the Myanmar government to provide recognition of [the Rohingya]. They must ensure that these asylum seekers can go back home and have their rights protected,” he said.

The remarks came after a group of asylum seekers on their way to Australia from Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka were found stranded off the island of Rote in Indonesia’s East Nusa Tenggara province.

The group of 65 people is currently staying at the Ina Boi Hotel in Kupang, the provincial capital, after landing on nearby Rote on Sunday night.

Raguvarman, from Bangladesh, told reporters on Tuesday that their boat was intercepted by the Royal Australian Navy near the Ashmore and Cartier Islands, south of Rote.

The asylum seeker said the boat crew was given two new boats, food, money and fuel by the Australians before being sent back north.

On the way back to Indonesia, the two new boats ran out of fuel and the group was left stranded on Rote Island, Raguvarman said.

“We want to seek asylum in Australia because we are not comfortable in our country,” he said.

“We were given money, but the money was taken by the crew of the boat that carried us. Two of the crew took off with a speedboat and four were arrested by police when we got stranded.”

Police, however, said only two members of the crew were arrested.

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