Time for ASEAN and the United Nations to act

May 20, 2015

Phnom Penh



Merhrom :Time for ASEAN and the United Nations to act

by Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani@www.malaysiakini.com

The Rohingya ExodusThe Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia (Merhrom) is deeply sad over the recent tragedy of thousands of boat people involving ethnic Rohingya from Myanmar and Bangladeshis.

This is proof that ethnic Rohingyas in Myanmar are facing continuous systematic prosecutions from the Myanmar government. We face gross human rights violations by the state, we have become victims of genocide for generations and are left to die in horrible makeshift camps in our own homeland without food, water and medical supplies from the government.

Boat People 1 Due to horrible situation we face in our homeland, we take risks to flee the country to seek refuge in other countries. We feel very sad to hear that thousands of boat people are turned back to sea as the neighbouring countries are refusing to give protection to new asylum seekers.

Currently, an estimated 8,000 boat people are abandoned in the ocean and have nowhere to go. How long they can survive with little food, water and medicine? What will happen to them in the uncertain ocean? Death is on their way. They have already been more than two months in the ocean. They are starving and dehydrated and sick. There are large numbers of women and children in the boats.

From January to March 2015, an estimated 25,000 ethnic Rohingya and Bangladeshi became boat people. Thousands more ethnic Rohingyas will flee the country if Myanmar does not stop the prosecution on ethnic Rohingyas and recognise Rohingyas as citizens by law.

If ASEAN and the United Nations fail to resolve the Rohingya plight with Myanmar, the world will continue to see Rohingya boat people who risk their lives to seek refuge in other countries. It will become a catastrophe that the world cannot forget.

Boat People 2 We are very frustrated with the UN Human Rights Commissioner (UNHCR) as they are keeping quiet at this very critical time. Human lives are at risk but UNHCR remains quiet. We are talking about asylum seekers who are persons of concerns to UNHCR but what are they doing?UNHCR must play a vital role in the whole issue of Rohingya. We cannot see the role of UNHCR except renewing the UNHCR cards held by refugees as they are no longer registering newly-arrived Rohingya asylum seekers.

Boat People 3 Don’t we have the feeling to make a search and rescue first and later decide on how to resolve the issue? Don’t we have the feeling that lives must be saved first before we decide on the rest? Do we feel these boat people lives are very cheap and valueless? Don’t we have the feeling to see babies, children, women and elderly suffers along their way to seek refuge in other place? Don’t we realise how dangerous the way that they had gone through for the sake of their lives?We thank very much the Kelab Putra Satu Malaysia who have come forward to help the newly-arrived Rohingya asylum seekers. We really appreciate what you have done to help us since the conflict in 2012 in our country. We continuously look for your love and support for us.

We heard some people suggesting that aid be sent to the boat people in the ocean. This is a temporary help to them, but we cannot be sending food and water to them every day, for how long? A solution must be found.

Do we wait to search for dead bodies?

We do not know if these boats still have petrol. If the petrol is finished we do not know where they will arrive and how far they can go. Can we just wait and see what will happen to them? Do we wait to search for their dead bodies after their boats have sunk in the ocean? We appeal to ASEAN and other countries such as Australia to initiate search and rescue mission.

Boat People 4 Some ASEAN countries including Malaysia have signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (Cedaw) and the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). These two conventions apply regardless of nationality and immigration status. Therefore we urge the Malaysia and other ASEAN countries to give immediate protection to asylum seekers, especially women and children, as they are vulnerable.

We urge the ASEAN governments to ensure that that the boat people are rescued and be given treatment first before they die. Meanwhile, the ASEAN governments and the United Nations must meet immediately to find solutions to the Rohingya plight. The United Nations and the UNHCR specifically must intervene urgently as this involves the lives of asylum seekers who require international protection.

We hope very much that the Malaysian government will play its role as much as possible as chair of ASEAN  and member of the UN Security Council to help us.

We urge the United States government and other countries to give urgent protection and immediate documentation and resettlement to these victims of human trafficking under the Trafficking in Persons Act.

We urge UNHCR to step in and have a meeting with Malaysian, Thai and Indonesian government for the documentation process by both UNHCR and the respective governments.

We urge the United Nations to play a vital role to stop genocide towards ethnic Rohingya in Myanmar. Economic and political sanctions must be made on Myanmar in order to compel Myanmar to stop the genocide towards ethnic Rohingya who are the most prosecuted ethnic group in the world.

We urge the Myanmar government to come forward and attend the meeting in Bangkok to address the whole longstanding Rohingya plight.

We urge the ASEAN governments to crack down on human trafficking networks. All Agencies in ASEAN must work in a comprehensive framework to stop human trafficking. Stern action must be taken on human traffickers and their networks. In lights of this new development, a comprehensive action plan needs to be developed to curb human trafficking starting from the host country, transit and destination countries.

All ASEAN countries must be involved

We urge Malaysia as the chair of ASEAN to seek a specific meeting to discuss the issue. The meeting must involve all ASEAN countries as Rohingya boat people will arrive not only in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia but also in other ASEAN countries in future. Previously Rohingyas had arrived in Cambodia and Singapore.

We urge ASEAN and the United Nations to continuously pressure the Myanmar government to stop continuous persecution on ethnic Rohingya and recognise Rohingya as citizens under the 1982 Citizenship Law.

The Besieged Malaysia EmperorIn this very critical situation, Merhrom urges the United Nations Security Council, US government, British government, European Union, world leaders, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), ASEAN and other international communities to help.

We hope very much the meeting in Bangkok will find immediate and long-term solutions to the Rohingya plight.

ZAFAR AHMAD ABDUL GHANI is president of the Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia (Merhrom).

6 thoughts on “Time for ASEAN and the United Nations to act

  1. The Plight of the Rohingyas (and the Bangladeshis) requires urgent ASEAN attention and the support of the international community. We have a human tragedy in the making. Will Najib take the initiative to convene an urgent meeting in Kuala Lumpur or will he remain silent? –Din Merican

  2. Send all refugees to their home countries and take action against the regimes who created this human calamity.
    Looking after refugees only rewards the perpetrators of the crisis and rewards them and may not help the refugees in the long run.

    Be practical and reasonable. Individuals are not willing to tack care of their own needy and elderly parents even when they are rich and even less help to relatives/others so why would anyone wanting to take care of foreigners who are not willing to fight for their rights.?

  3. Najib is somewhat preoccupied these days. But he may well convene a KL meeting if only to distract his critics and to position himself …like he did following MH17.

    That aside, the refugee problem, especially in this part of the world, has no practical short term solution in sight.

    While humanitarian assistance may be rendered wherever and whenever possible to comfort those ‘adrift’ in no man’s land or waters, local and regional politics, ethnic/religious/cultural differences, overpopulation and economic stresses militate against any ‘permanent resettlement’ option.

    Over the longer term, a solution of sorts may be arrived at if pressure is consistently applied on the Myanmar regime by ASEAN together with a package of incentives to reverse its policies. But given that this is a self-serving group firmly anchored on the ‘see no evil’ principle, that too is not likely anytime soon.

    In the meantime, many more lives will be lost even as the misery of the survivors multiplies with each passing day.

    In any case, while the politicians do what they do best in these circumstances, we may wonder why the refugees are reportedly having a preference for Malaysia as their final destination. Could it be that many of their kin are already here as legals and illegals thanks to UMNO’s Jabatan Imigresen? Are we reaping the fruits of our short term policies and short-sighted solutions which have seen tens of millions from this region in our petrol stations, farms, factories, construction sites and the growing “security industry”? Are these new immigrants and transients serving as magnets for those on the boats?

  4. Political and economic migrants have become a problem for concern in many parts of r world. It is good to get the UN and regional Organisations involved. While we address the pull factors we must not forget the push factors and exporting countries have a greater responsibility to bear than those countries that are the target of this migration.

  5. “Time for ASEAN and the United Nations to act”

    Will Najib take the initiative to convene an urgent meeting in Kuala Lumpur or will he remain silent? –Din Merican

    This is the time for urgent and decisive action. Forcing Myanmar out of ASEAN is not an option. Instead, ASEAN needs to engage in a consultative dialogue with the military junta towards finding a lasting solution to the Rohingya issue.–Din Merican

    ASEAN can no longer remain quiet when it comes to human rights, human trafficking, cross border crimes, terrorism and other security in its member states. Non-interference has its limits. The plight of minorities and religious extremism in ASEAN, for example, must be the business of each and every member of the grouping.–Din Merican


    Yes indeed.

    But has the present Chair of ASEAN the intelligence, courage & “Gumption” to “initiate” any urgent & decisive action…???

    Nov 12, 2014 – Asean bloc meet in Myanmar to discuss Ebola and IS – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rxtZb4LcE9E

    Nice rhetoric speech he made, ofcourse it was prepared by his International PR Guru, who we all know about…!


    “…Responding to the pressure, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said his country already had 120,000 illegal migrants from Myanmar and the “humanitarian catastrophe” was a global issue to be resolved by the international community.]

    “We allow some of them to land and provide humanitarian aid to them but Malaysia must not be burdened with this problem as there are thousands more waiting to flee from their region,” Najib told the state news agency Bernama on Saturday….”


    Hello, Jibby, what about the speech you made at the 26th ASEAN summit…?

    This is his 1st test case as Chair of ASEAN…

    Is it another case of “I want my mommy” again, everytime he is faced with any challenge …???

    You be the judge.

  6. I cannot help but to think that this issue is a well planned agenda of the west & its supporters to rid of the planets Muslim population, or at least minimising its population growth rate. Almost every corner of the world today the Muslims are either at war against each other or are being the targets for ‘ethnic-cleansing’.

    The famous lady of modern day Myanmar, seemed speechless on the matter despite being held so highly for her unwavering stand on human-right issues. Are the people of Myanmar racists for ignoring the plight of their fellow Rohingyas? Why must other ASEAN nations be forced to accommodate the fleeing boat-people?

    Do not get me wrong, I’m sure all of the governments affected by the fleeing Rohingyas have its own matters to attend to. Having to take in these refugees will open the doors to many other issues ie their living conditions, nourishment, health-care & safety.

    We must tackle the matter from its roots. Myanmar government should persecute those who incite hatred amongst its citizens with stiffer punishments. Especially to those who hold high positions in religious entities. Else, they’re no different from IS who even the majority Muslims worldwide are condemning.

    Why Muslims at large are victimized is for another chapter to follow.

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