It’s all very clear in hindsight, but should it not have been easy to predict that the persecution and anti-Muslim riots of recent years would result in an exodus of Rohingya from Burma?
Yet no one did anything to alleviate the issues; in fact, Burma’s authorities could well be held to account for exacerbating the prejudices against the Rohingya and forcing them into fleeing the country.
More than 130,000 Rohingya people remain sheltered at IDP camps in Arakan State. This represents perhaps 15 to 20 percent of the group’s population in the country. The rest live humbly in towns such as Maungdaw and Buthidaung, but many others are confined to ghettoes in Sittwe. Altogether as a community, they reap very little.
Is this their own fault? Is it the government or society’s fault? To what extent could the Rohingyas have made a better living for their community? Have they made no strides to integrate into Burmese society?
Yet, at the same time, is this not a regional problem rather than a Burmese affair? The origin of many thousands of this recent wave of boat people is Bangladesh; the smuggling and trafficking rings most certainly exist on both sides of the Naf River.
Of the thousands who have taken to the perilous high seas, how many should be classified as ‘economic migrants’ and how many are ‘refugees fleeing persecution’?
Is it now the responsibility of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia to take care of these people who drift into their waters? Surely migrants are headed in those directions because they believe they will be safer, have more access to work and livelihoods, and to a better life. Have the boat people been duped by unscrupulous traffickers? Or does the supply meet the demand?
What then must ASEAN do as a regional economic bloc? Indeed, does it have to do anything?
And what of the Western countries who preach human rights and continually pour shame on Burma, but who have no less stringent policies on immigrants themselves?
Or should Muslim nations step in – countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran – to offer sanctuary to Rohingya refugees?
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