Friday, February 27, 2009

Malaysian PM: Push back Rohingya refugees

CHA-AM, Thailand (IHT): Malaysia's prime minister has called for Myanmar's Muslim boat people to be pushed back if they attempt to land on any Southeast Asian shores in search of asylum, a newspaper said Friday.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi also took swipes at Myanmar and Thailand on the issue of the Rohingya refugees, which has escalated into a major problem for the region and one of concern internationally.

Thousands of the stateless Rohingya have fled Myanmar as well as refugee camps in Bangladesh in recent years, but their plight was only highlighted recently when hundreds were believed to have drowned after being pushed out to sea by the Thai military.

"But if we cannot be firm we cannot deal with this problem. We have to be firm at all borders. We have to turn them back," Badawi said in an interview with the English-language Bangkok Post.

Badawi was scheduled to arrive at this beach-side resort Friday for the annual summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a 10-nation bloc with includes Myanmar. The Rohingya issue is expected to be discussed on the sidelines of the three-day conference but is not part of the official agenda.

Thailand has called for a special regional conference on the refugees, who often attempt to land in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

"We feel that they are being pushed onto us instead of Thailand accommodating them somehow," Badawi said who also criticized Myanmar's military regime.

"Of course, we know they come from Myanmar (Burma). When we ask Myanmar, they ask: 'Are you sure they are our people? What evidence have you got?'" he said. (JEG's: and so the believers turn back in sadness)

It was unclear from the interview how Bawadi reconciled his call for Thailand to accommodate the refugees while at the same time saying that they should be pushed back from Southeast Asian shores.

The Rohingyas, an ethnic minority not recognized by Myanmar's government, number about 800,000 in that country. Hundreds of thousands have fled to Bangladesh, Malaysia and the Middle East.

"From Thailand they come to us, from us they go to Indonesia. We don't want to be unkind. But the problem has been about people who come to us without permits," Badawi said.

The prime minister said he would be pleased to see international organizations helping to solve the problem. (???) (is he saying we should solve government problems? it is a government problem and they are too soft with Myanmar which is to solve the problem once and for all... now they turn to international activism to SOLVE THE GOVERNMENTS PROBLEMS?)

"They (the organizations) are very concerned and at times they are critical of actions taken by governments," he said. (JEG's: that is right we are concerned, the problem should be solved and the victims should be treated humanly, but the problem should be fixed by governments, we just make the noise)

Human rights groups have been highly critical of Thailand for allegedly abusing groups of Rohingya refugees whose rickety boats reached its shores and then towing them out to sea without adequate provisions or fuel for their craft. Thailand has denied the allegations.

"This is not just Thailand's problem. It's a problem for all the region's countries, whether they are countries of origin, countries of destination or countries of transit," Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has said.

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