Latest Highlight

Time to get tough on Rohingya issue or stay home

By Charles Santiago
December 18, 2016

Foreign Minister Anifah Aman must raise tough questions on the persecution of the Rohingya at the Asean Foreign Minister’s meeting.

Finally it looks like Myanmar is buckling under mounting international pressure.

The country’s most famous personality, state counsellor and Foreign Minister, Aung San Suu Kyi, has asked for Asean Foreign Ministers to come together for a briefing on the fast-deteriorating Rohingya humanitarian crisis, next week.

Although Suu Kyi has come under heavy criticism for dismissing the allegations of heightened violence against the Rohingya, this is certainly an opportunity for Malaysia to show it is serious about advocating for the minority community whom the United Nations describes as one of the most persecuted people in the world.

The meeting should not be treated as a form of political cover for the Myanmar government.

Asean foreign ministers should use the opportunity to address the crisis head-on. They must impress upon Suu Kyi the importance of protecting civilian life and ensuring that abuses are properly and urgently investigated.

Few weeks ago, Prime Minister Najib Razak broke ranks with Asean’s non-interference policy and observed the killings of the Rohingya in Rakhine state as targeted persecution.

It’s now time for the Malaysian government to make good its concern for the Rohingya, who have been butchered, murdered, burnt and raped since October this year.

Instead of passively listening to a briefing by Myanmar, Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman has to ask the tough questions – did the Myanmar military undertake systematic ethnic clensing and commit crimes against humanity against the Rohingya in Rakhine state.

This is important given recent revelations by Human Rights Watch satellite imagery, suggesting over 1,500 buildings have been burned down in the Rakhine area in the past two months and revealed patterns suggesting that the Myanmar military is responsible for the arson.

There are easily 150,000 Rohingya in Malaysia. And they are in a legal limbo here.

Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and therefore the government doesn’t recognise the rights of the asylum seekers or refugees.

As such the government must ratify the convention, recognise the rights of the Rohingya, allow the refugees to work and send their children to school before it can indulge itself in sloganeering at a political rally.

The Rohingya have very little access to medicine and are too poor to afford the costs of medical attention for critical cases. This too must change.

Asean is known as a toothless tiger. The long meetings, countless conferences of heads of states and endless meetings between foreign ministers don’t bring about effective change.

These remain a mere back-slapping routine at dinner tables.

This must change and Malaysia can spearhead that shift if it cleans up its own backyard and allows the Rohingya and other refugees the dignity of being treated with respect and the space to ensure their rights are met.

Malaysia, at the briefing session, can pledge to change its policy to recognise the Rohingya and other refugees.

And it can then surely raise tough questions and hard issues about the Rohingya with Myanmar and Suu Kyi.

If the Malaysian government doesn’t want to rock the boat any further and would rather keep nodding his head, it’s best to avoid this meeting, especially since the Rohingya are facing the last stages of genocide now.

Charles Santiago is the DAP Member of Parliament for Klang.

Write A Comment

Rohingya Exodus