Thai authorities rescued Rohingya refugees from traffickers
The Thai police force rescued nearly 700 ethnic Rohingya refugees in a raid last month. Native to the state of Arakan in Myanmar, the Rohingyas are denied citizenship by the government, claiming that they are migrants originated from Bangladesh. An incident last June, a rape and murder of a Rakhine woman, led to subsequent killings of Muslims by ethnic Rakhine, another native population of Arakan. The dispute soon spread and sparked riots and conflicts between the Rohingya Muslims and the Rakhine Buddhists. The Burmese army later intervened and calmed down the riots by further persecuting the Rohingyas. While some had fled from the country, the government placed the remaining Rohingyas in Myanmar in isolated camps and ghettoes, separating them from the local population and limiting their movement. The closest country to the Arakan state, Bangladesh, is currently hosting hundreds of thousands Rohingya refugees and has refused to take in more. One refugee recently interviewed by the BBC was captured by the Thai navy on his way to seek asylums in Malaysia. Instead of being deported back to Myanmar or sent to Malaysia—options preferred by the Thai government—he was sold to the traffickers and had to pay ransom before being released.
ASEAN subcommissions reacts to the recent news on the Rohingyas
During the first meetings of ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) under the chairmanship of Brunei Darussalam held from January 29 to February 2 last week, Indonesia’s representative Rafendi Djamin asserted the need for the AICHR to address the plight of the Rohingya minority in the Arakan state of Myanmar. Similar statement was made on separate occassion by Kraisak Choonhavan, vice president of The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC). Mr. Choonhavan especially noted the fact that the persecution of the Rohingyas did not end even after their flight from the country, as evidenced by recent reports of the involvement of Thai officials in human trafficking operation of these refugees. Ms. Eva Kusuma Sundari, the president of AIPMC, issued a strong statement in which she claimed that ASEAN’s inaction in this case is another mark of “institutional failures.” The AIPMC, a consultative body composed of MPs from ASEAN countries, was formed in 2004 with the aim to help Myanmar’s transition to democracy whereas the AICHR was set up to promote human rights in the region and later to implement the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration (AHRD). Still lacking real authority, the AICHR also has to make do with a declaration that, in the words of Mr. Djamin, “can be interpreted as a limitation of human rights.”
AICHR to publish booklet
I quote from the official press release after the meeting ended: “AICHR agreed to give first priority to the dissemination of the landmark AHRD, such as the publication of the AHRD and the Phnom Penh Statement on the Adoption of the AHRD in a booklet format, translation of the AHRD into national languages and the possibility of developing future ASEAN human rights instruments.”