Burma Partnership, Strengthening Cooperation for a Free Burma
Signup Now!
Join our mailing list for latest news and information about Burma.

AIPMC Calls on Thai Authorities to Grant UN Access to Rohingya Immigrants

By ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus  •  January 3, 2013

The ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus (AIPMC) today called on Thai authorities to give United Nations refugee agencies unhindered access to Rohingya boat migrants. Thai authorities should suspend plans to deport at least 73 Rohingya migrants back to Myanmar, the regional human rights caucus said.

“It is imperative that Thailand give the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) unhindered access to these migrants so that they can ascertain whether or not they are asylum seekers and if they are eligible for refugee status,” said Kraisak Choonhavan, AIPMC Vice President.

“Thailand has a history of mistreatment of Rohingya refugees, and their push-back, or ‘help on’ policy is clearly not in keeping with international human rights standards. Thailand must not send any Rohingya back to Myanmar until the UN refugee agency has had an opportunity to interview them and ascertain their refugee status.”

Since inter-communal violence broke out in Myanmar’s Arakan (Rakhine) State in June of last year, increasing numbers of boats carrying Rohingya immigrants have been passing through Thai waters as they flee persecution at home to seek asylum in Malaysia. Thailand has for many years employed a policy to ‘help on’ any boats of Rohingya found in Thai waters, restocking them with water and fuel and other essentials, before pushing them back out to sea as they continue their voyage onto Malaysia or Indonesia. As the crisis continues in Arakan State, it is likely that many more Rohingya will try to flee by boat over the coming months. As such, it is imperative that the Thai authorities change their policy towards Rohingay boat people, recognizing their right to protection and fulfill Thailand’s commitments to international human rights standards.

In this recent case, however, Thai authorities have detained some 73 Rohingya migrants, including women and children after their boat was deemed not to be seaworthy and many of the passengers were too weak to endure a long journey to Malaysia’s Langkawi Island. Thailand says it intends to return them to Myanmar, where they are also denied citizenship and are likely to suffer under harsh treatment from the Burmese authorities, who accuse Rohingya of being illegal immigrants and have a history of abuse of the Muslim minority.

In contrast, Malaysian authorities regularly give UNHCR access to incoming Rohingya migrants and those screened and designated as qualifying for refugee status are released from immigration detention.

“As a member of ASEAN Thailand has a duty to safeguard the human rights of any people in its territory, including illegal immigrants who may be asylum seekers. Sending these Rohingya back to Myanmar is likely to put them at increased risk of rights abuses, including falling prey to unscrupulous human traffickers who prey on the destitute and desperate,” said Eva Kusuma Sundari AIPMC President and Indonesian member of parliament.

“Within ASEAN we are working hard to try and put an end to the curse of human trafficking, and to eradicate modern day human slavery in our region. By forcibly returning these Rohingya asylum seekers, Thailand is inadvertently increasing the likelihood that they will fall into the hands of human traffickers. Instead, the UNHCR are willing, capable and mandated to screen these people and ascertain whether they qualify for refugee status or not. This is the only right step to take in this situation.”

AIPMC also remains concerned by the condition of tens of thousands of internally displaced Rohingya living in makeshift camps in Arakan state and again urges the Burmese government to offer unhindered access to international aid organisations, as well as work quickly to restore basic human and civil and political rights to Rohingya communities in Myanmar.

Similarly, AIPMC also reiterates its concern over reports from southern Thailand that human traffickers, in collaboration with Thai and Malaysian state officers, are exploiting Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in Myanmar as they try to pass from Thailand to Malaysia. Press reports have suggested that hundreds of desperate Rohingya refugees are being held in inhuman conditions by traffickers demanding extortionate amounts to sneak them across the border into Malaysia, where they wish to seek asylum.

“This is a humanitarian crisis and there are reports that more and more boats are leaving each day from Rakhine state. This is not just an issue for Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar, but for the whole region and therefore a regional solution must be found to ensure the rights of the Rohingya are protected, both in Myanmar and abroad,” Ms. Sundari said.

For further information and interview requests please contact Ismail Wolff on +66 816430009, or by email at info@aseanmp.org.

Tags: , , ,

This post is in: Press Release

Related Posts
Parliamentarians Call on ASEAN Member States to Back OIC Human Rights Council Resolution on Anti-Muslim Violence in Myanmar
ASEAN Parliamentarians Call on the European Union to Maintain Suspended Sanctions Against Myanmar
ASEAN Parliamentarians Call for Urgent National and Regional Response to Sectarian Violence in Myanmar, and Independent Investigation into Madrasa Fire in Yangon
ASEAN Must Support Efforts to Renew Mandate for UN Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Myanmar
Myanmar Must End Its Policy of Segregation in Rakhine State: ASEAN’s Inability to Act Points to Institutional Failures