02/05/2009, 00.00
THAILAND
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Inter-Asian meeting to solve Rohingya crisis proposed

by Weena Kowitwanij
Thailand, Myanmar and Bangladesh do not recognise the right of the Muslim ethnic minority to live on their territory. For Rohingya representative in Thailand Myanmar soldiers are to blame for injuries and wounds inflicted on refugees.
Bangkok (AsiaNews) – Thailand wants an inter-Asian meeting to tackle the Rohingya refugee problem. Thai authorities made the proposal in order to solve the crisis caused by the flight of members of the Myanmar-based Muslim ethnic minority that no Asian country wants. Representatives of Myanmar, Bangladesh, Indonesia, India and Thailand are invited to meet to discuss the issue.

For Thailand the Rohingya are not genuine political refugees but illegal immigrants. Myanmar says they are not indigenous Burmese but migrants who arrived in the country during colonial times. Bangladesh claims that its Rohingya population began arriving in 1978.

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva repeatedly said that the Rohingya are not political refugees but illegal immigrants who will be expelled in accordance with rules established by the international community to deal with human rights matters.

He noted that his country is willing to cooperate with others but reiterated that it will not change their “status” or set up any refugee facility for them.

“It is necessary for all countries affected by the matter to discuss a solution to the problem,” Mr Abhisit said, a position re-affirmed by his foreign minister, Kasit Pirom, who proposed a meeting with “representatives of Burma, Bangladesh, Indonesia, India and Thailand.”

In the meantime the Legislation and Human Rights Commission of Thailand’s parliament met yesterday. Muhamad Norsum, a representative of Rohingya living in Thailand for 21 years attended the meeting.

He told lawmakers that Rohingya refugees “do not want to stop in Thailand, but instead want to go to Malaysia, Indonesia or other predominantly Muslim countries.”

He confirmed that injuries and wounds inflicted on the refugees “were not caused by Thai soldiers” but were the result of violence and torture “received in Myanmar.”

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