Don’t turn our backs on Refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh

May 19, 2015

Refugees from Myanmar

Malaysia is not turning  its back on refugees. It has been giving humanitarian assistance.This problem of human trafficking  and racial discrimination has a beginning somewhere, usually in their home countries. Both Myanmar and Bangladesh have a responsibility to ensure that they take care of their own people and not burden their neighbours with their domestic problems. This is their primary duty that cannot be imposed on Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. It should not even be a matter for negotiation.

It is time both these countries own up to their own failures to care and protect their own people by providing education, health care and jobs. For all my criticisms of Malaysia’s political leadership on many issues, I can say with pride that our government  and people are compassionate and helpful to displaced peoples since the days of the Vietnam War. But we cannot be burdened by this. It has become a regional and international one. ASEAN and the international community must act. Pressure must be brought to bear on both Myanmar and Bangladesh..–Din Merican

Don’t turn our backs on Refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh

by Azrul Mohd Khalib

The quality of mercy is not strain’d,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
‘T is mightiest in the mightiest: it becomes
The throned monarch better than his crown;
His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty,
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
It is an attribute to God himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s,
When mercy seasons justice…
Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.William Shakespeare, “The Merchant of Venice”, Act 4 scene 1
Greatest English dramatist & poet (1564 – 1616)

The news that Malaysia had turned away two leaky boats packed to the nearest inch with hundreds of starving and malnourished Myanmar and Bangladeshi men, women and children was met with much dismay and horror by not only the international community, but also Malaysians.

These are refugees and migrants who have fled ethnic persecution and poverty only to be exploited and trafficked by people who viewed their human cargo as little more than a liability and nuisance that needed to be abandoned when things got too hot. They had no qualms leaving pregnant women, children and infants to suffer and die on those fishing boats stranded and adrift for months at sea.

Many are sick, weakened by hunger and thirst as a result of their ordeal. The bodies of those who died on these boats were tossed overboard.

Rather than show leadership in helping to tackle this humanitarian problem in a humane and compassionate way, our government decided to go the Australian way of dealing with the boat people: turn them around, point the boats in the opposite direction and make it someone else’s problem.

There are malnourished, sick, pregnant and dying adults and children on those boats. Where is our compassion for our fellow human beings?

One of those boats barely made it to Indonesian shores before sinking. More than 700 people were saved by fishermen. If that boat had sunk with all lives lost and knowing that we had a chance to save them, whose conscience would that be on?

The Malaysian government, as the proud chair of this year’s “people centred” Asean, has done us all a disservice by responding to this humanitarian crisis in a way that is callous, inhumane and lacking in compassion and humanity. Turning back the boats and treating it as somebody else’s problem makes a mockery of the “people centred” theme and caring society that we often thump our chests about.

The response by a minister that the boats should instead go to Cambodia or Philippines shows either his inability to read a map or the lack of understanding and appreciation for the desperate humanitarian situation.This “ping-pong” game with human lives is a travesty, inhumane and it must stop.

Why can’t ASEAN be known for once for being able to mobilise effective regional humanitarian action and cooperation? As chair, Malaysia should lead the way.We are better than this.

From the outcry and anger heard from thousands of Malaysians who have expressed their disapproval and anguish at the government’s actions that have exacerbated a humanitarian emergency, we know it was the wrong move to make.

True, nobody likes unwelcomed guests who could become considered a burden to resources. But no one wants to flee their own country, leave everything behind and be exiles away from home and loved ones. They did not come for fun, or by choice. They escaped persecution, extreme poverty and death in their own country. They come from different cultures and languages. They risked their lives to get here seeking sanctuary and protection. Are our hearts so small that we turn them away?

We are taught that we should “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”It is not too late to save hundreds of lives.Rohinyga and Bangladeshi refugees are transported to a navy boat where they will be taken to mainland Malaysia, after they landed at Pantai Pasir Berdengung beach in Langkawi May 14, 2015. — Reuters pic

Rohinyga and Bangladeshi refugees are transported to a navy boat where they will be taken to mainland Malaysia, after they landed at Pantai Pasir Berdengung beach in Langkawi May 14, 2015. — Reuters pic

Last week, thousands of desperate people landed in Langkawi in rickety boats. The police and immigration authorities are overwhelmed. Non-governmental organisations such as the Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organisations (MAPIM) are mobilising to provide food, water as well as medical attention. It’s a colossal task. Please donate supplies as they are in constant need and they are fast running out.

A number of initiatives are being set up to help those at sea. Due to the logistical challenges, these are being worked out carefully and will be announced soon by their respective organisers.

Hundreds of Malaysians have come forward offering their services, donations of money and in kind to help those who have already landed and those still at sea. Just as it was during the floods late last year, these are Malaysians at their best and it shows what good we are capable of doing.

Come on Malaysia! We can do this. Let’s find it in our hearts and reach out to them with compassion as fellow human beings and prevent a humanitarian disaster on our watch.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

16 thoughts on “Don’t turn our backs on Refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh

  1. Expel Myanmar/Burma from ASEAN if they continue to persecute
    the Rohingyas, and brazenly ignore
    world opinion — like how the Nazis persecuted the German Jews.

    If this fails to work, pressure the foreign companies to divest from the
    Myanmar/Burma economy.

  2. I wonder what that Nobel Laureate Ms. Aung is doing about this matter. This problem started from the days of her father, General Aung San.–Din Merican

  3. Humanitarianism should be laced with practicality :
    1. Are we going to encourage more boat people by accepting those who are on the high seas?
    2. Do we have the infrastructure and resources to take on this burden? Why is it the those holier than thou Australians not take them in if they have such concerns?
    3. We already have enough of Niggers running scams and pushing drugs to corrupt our society and do we need more beggars on the street;
    4. The Australian descendents of convicts had appeal for the lives of drug ring leaders. Ask the Chinese about the opium war where their ancestors the British, push opium to exhaust the treasury of China. Even the mother who is not able to bring up the son in righteous ways went to condemn a righteous President for implementing the laws of his country;
    5. If we are to take in the refugees, who will feed them and take care of their needs. Remember, we have our hardcore poor.

  4. Why must Malaysia to face the burden ? Malaysia had been mocked as the “black sheep” for these kind of cruelties, and for the sake of refugees since viatnamese war initiated by Americans.

    Singapore and Thailand clearly rejected the unwelcomed guests.

    Now, the core countries, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Myanmar blames on Asean. What the heck ! Do they care ? Rohingyas are clearly not Malaysians in any way.

    Malaysia has done so much on humanatarian basis, so much for the unfoturnates. There lies emphathy and sympathy in every heart of a muslim.

    What more ? Still not good enough ? Like what you said Mr DM, back to the root caused. Malaysia must not be punished, put on the death row by the seculars. In reality, they themseleves have not done anything at all !

  5. The solution for refugee problem is not with their escape but the safety in their home countries.

    UN and other human rights organizations and countries have their sympathies misplaced when they all want to assist them but want others to do the ‘assisting’. This may be more of a hypocrisy.

    No country in the world let alone a developing country like Indonesia and Malaysia with their limited resources can assist large numbers and in short periods. Australia with a small population and large land track is not willing to assist then why should it call on others with comparatively large populations and smaller land areas to assist these refugees.

    This is just like the rich individuals who do not want to assist their own poor relations but will ‘donate’ funds to look after the poor who may include their very own relations.

    My sympathies are with the refugees but it is not within my means to assist even a single person for may be more than a wee.

    Most countries do not want refugees who escape from the unbearable conditions and treatment either social or religious tend to bring the same cultures/practices soon after in their adopted countries and demand that they be allowed to practice conditions/cultures from which they had escaped. Several EU and former Rurssian countries are having social/religious problems and now when these countries are taking steps to stop the ‘extremism’ they are criticized.

    I repeat: The solution for refugee problem is not with their escape but the safety in their home countries.

  6. Whatever anybody says, this is a catastrophe originating from the Rohinygas’ motherland, Myanmar. And who in Myanmar persecuted them? It is the Buddhist community which prides itself in Holiness, Compassion and Love. And what of the world renowned Nobel laureate, Aung San Suu Kyi? From the anointed people’s leader, not even a whisper from her about this ethnic cleansing in full view of the world. Instead, the local disaster is being shipped out en masse, all along the coastline, south of Myanmar and onto the shores of neighboring countries, namely, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia. And what reaction does the international community expect from these dumping grounds? Welcome them with flowers and open arms? With the economic imbalance due to uneven playing fields between the haves and have-nots, does the rest of the world even lift a finger to assist? Of course not. They fold their arms and pass judgment, as if they are passing wind with a snigger. And the United Nations? What United Nations!! They are just a bunch of overfed and over indulgent so-called statesmen. They cannot even come up with a coherent plan on action.

    Malaysia is already being overrun by illegal immigrants. The authorities are turning a blind eye, not because they don’t see but it is a syndicate out there, a syndicate which thrives on blatant corruption, abject misery of the victims, and self-glorification and satisfaction. If I were the leader of this nation, I would say “Tow them to back to international waters, give them the survival supplies and God speed.” My country needs to survive. Is that asking too much?
    If I may add, go after the syndicates. Thanks, Karim for your comments.–Din Merican

  7. Dato, First of all thanks for returning to the old format. So much easier to handle.

    Malaysia should not accept these people for the simple reason that news would spread in both countries and before we know it we would be inundated by boat people. This is not lack of compassion or humanitarian feelings but of simple practicality. Our small country just cannot accept this phenomenon. So let’s treat them well temporarily while they are here and send them back

    Expel Myanmar from ASEAN? or impose sanctions? No,no,no. Quiet and firm diplomacy are far better.
    I trust you are well and business is good, despite the GST which your customer can absorb fully.

    Myanmar should be told to take care of their internal problems and stop ethnic cleansing. The time for Malaysia to be polite to their leaders is over. Otherwise we will send them the bill for feeding their citizens in custody in refugee camps– Din Merican

  8. Concur with you Dato Din and Abdul Karim. I WAS IN the Navy when we had the boat people from Vietnam after the American war n Vietnam. We did the best we could and pulau Bidong was where they were sent. I will not deny that we had some very unpleasant incidents where Navy and police personnel were involved, stemming from reports from international players
    ,example the very telling report by ICRC ship and many others. Acton was taken by the Navy against officers and men involved, I know this for a fact as I was one of the complainants to our former Cheif of Navy the late Admiral Md.Zain As to Myanmar and Bangladesh they should take ownership of this problem. Where is aung san Suu Kyi, why the silence, we stood by you now stand by your people.
    In Europe the EU has finally taken the bull by the horns and now are forming a task force to go to the Libyan coast. The people who are leaving their country for Europe are from Sunni Muslim countries and sub Saharan African nations Saudi Arabia and the gulf states and the OAU must also take ownership of this sorry state of affairs. The Saudis are leading a coalition to slaughter more Muslims in YEMEN.

    USA, EU,(UK and France) have dragged their feet because of the lucrative arms deals with these corrupt regimes. I suppose pressure from the Northern Europeans had got them acting.
    We next have some bleeding hearts international agencies pleading for EU to take in more refugees. The UN and its agencies will stand to benefit most as more funds are collected to keep them in style.
    The UN best described by the late Richard Holbrook former US Ambassador to the UN, UN A SELF LICKING ICE CREAM

    So now what about resolving this by the much touted ASEAN WAY.
    First signs of crack

  9. This was a tragedy waiting to explode.

    Many moons ago, when Myanmar wooed Obama and the West, we already had a discussion in Din’s. Then i said – that to avert this catastrophe, the UN and other bleeding heart NGOs’ out there, lease a piece of land at Cox Bazaar on the border between Burma and Bangladesh – so that the Rohingyas be given safe haven, pending conflict resolution and arbitration. Nada.

    Myanmar does not recognize these ‘Bengalis’ period, and nothing’s gonna change the Tatmadaw mind. The atrocities are perpetuated as Rakhine State is in the throes of developing into an O&G hub with Sittwe (Kyaukphyu), being the Bay of Bengal hub for the Sino-Burma pipeline. The other terminus is at Kunming. The Buddhist-Muslim riots started way back in ’07 – where the Rakhines destroyed the Muslim quarter in Sittwe, cuz they protested against Taxes..

    So tell me, O All Ye Great Keyboard Warriors – what would you really do with a boatload of starving, dehydrated and desperate women and kids when you happen upon them? Drown them? Blame Others? Or Pray to God to rescue them. Thanks, your answer is as valid as your conscience dictates.

    Any other questions may be directed to Wrongways, who is very anxious to blame everybody except PRC.

  10. Its is a serious social, economic tragedy of global scale that is testing the resolve the world leaders collectively for their responsibility or irresponsibility to their people .

    Countries world over, including Malaysia, must first identify and address the source of the problem which is , money that can be easily made by third parties on trafficking humanity inhumanly from all sides of the global shore.

    There are always temptation for people to flee their country for a better future that their host countries are incapable or have failed to provide.

    Without the collective political will and co-operations of the world and regional leaders determinations to address the issues- a social and economic mayhem. The problems will persist.

  11. It’s not as if UMNO is demur about granting citizenship to foreign nationals, right ? Like I said on another thread, what about Muslim solidarity ? And it’s not as if slave labour is uncommon in Malaysia, so two birds with one stone and all that.

    If any of you have read Irene Fernandez’s exposes on the so called refugee camps in Malaysia, you would understand that maybe these wretched souls would be better off drifting at sea.

    This country is one of the nexus of human trafficking and nobody certainly not the politicians want to do anything about it. It’s a revenue stream for far too many people and these boat people are just a nasty reminder that payback is a bitch.

    There are no practical solutions and most of us here can sleep comfortably at night because we only have to read about it in the news.

  12. It’s mind boggling! These Bangladeshis and Rohunyas are Muslims and any Muslim would expect them to head for the Holy Land. Saudi Arabia is a big country and full of resources but these Muslims want to go to Australia. Btw are these refugees or economic migrants?

    I strongly believe our government is largely to blame for the current debacle. During the.Vietnamese refugee crisis we towed these boat people out to the merciless seas. A cousin who was a patrol boat commander said he was acting on order.

    Then our double standards policy raised its ugly head. We accepted large numbers of Cambodian muslims, presumably to swell the Muslim votes. These was followed by the acceptance of the first batch of Rohingyas. Such an ‘heroic’ act raised hopes for these people at home and Malaysia here we come.

    MT Lai,

    Your cousin sounds like a Khmer Rouge commander who was asked during interrogation why he killed, he said that he was following orders. A convenient answer indeed. He is mea culpa.

    Correction on Cambodian Muslims (Chams).They were brought by Tunku Abdul Rahman mainly to Kulim in Kedah and Kelantan on humanitarian grounds, because those who remained were being made to eat pork and when they refused they were slaughtered by Pol Pot and his people. It would be different under Mahathir who took in Filipino Muslims to swell the number of voters in Sabah. Mahathir was responsible when it came to the Vietnamese refugees. He sent (or shoo to use his word) them back into the South China Sea and God knows what happened to them after that.–Din Merican

  13. USA wants Myanmar as its ally and champion their human rights. Why not support accommodate refugees from Myanmar and Bangladesh to USA?

    Myanmar and Bangladesh were both British colonies. Europeans conquered the America, Australia and New Zealand….By rights and in human rights, they should allow refugees/immigrants to migrate to the vast and spacial lands they conquered, right?

  14. Dato Din
    I beg to differ with re your response to MT LAI. regarding the action of the Patrol boat Captain The delicate nature. of this subject and loyalty to my former service dictates that I refrain from commenting. If you are interested will talk in private. There were clandestine ops gong on. I will stop here.

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