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Detainees Swap between Malaysia and Myanmar

By ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Myanmar Caucus  •  October 20, 2011

AIPMC notes with serious concern on recent developments of the Malaysian government’s plan to implement the ‘detainees exchange program’ with Myanmar. This plan will result around 1,000 people from Myanmar, detained in Malaysia, deported from the country. There will be a possibility of persecution for those who are sent back to Myanmar. Those who flee Myanmar, namely ethnic and other persecuted minorities, remain at risk from persecution of all forms – forced labour, land confiscation, rape, and torture among them – should they continue to live under the military regime. Thus, they risk their lives to find asylum in neighboring states, in pursuit of a dignified, secure and peaceful life elsewhere.

We wish to reiterate that such a ‘swap deal’, which would see Burmese nationals returned to persecution in their homeland, serves political interests well ahead of these exceedingly serious human rights concerns. Contrary to the principles of international law upon which ASEAN is founded, such an agreement would only further jeopardize the dignity and security of Burmese refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia; indeed, who themselves should be considered among the region’s most vulnerable.

Thus, the AIPMC calls for a halt to any such ‘swap deal’ plans, until effective systems be put place to ensure that such refugees and asylum seekers be protected from persecution upon their return to Myanmar. The human rights situation in Myanmar, grievous as it remains, is unlikely to be able to ensure such protections, without which Malaysia cannot hope to fulfill its international obligations to ensure that human rights of refugees be protected.

We also note with concern that the Malaysian Government has, in recent months, further completed the registration under the 6P programme. There must be a total change in the government’s approach and policy with regard to the grave issue of the Burmese refugees in the country. As a first step the Malaysian government should accord them as refugees.

There should be a timely and efficient refugee registration process to gives certainty to refugees with regards to their in-country status, and thus assists to protect their rights. We also call upon the Malaysian government to ensure that detainees are provided access to both representatives from legal and non-government organizations, as they embark on a long route to ensuring their inherent rights are formally recognized when lodging asylum claims. Finally, we strongly urge the Malaysian government to ensure that all refugee registrations be undertaken in full collaboration with the UNHCR, who consistently act to ensure the rights of refugees are both explicitly recognized and protected.

For more information/interview with AIPMC MPs, please contact AIPMC Executive Director: Agung Putri Astrid +62 81514006416.

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This post is in: Press Release

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