05/21/2015, 00.00
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As Malaysia rescues migrants, Indonesian activist slams ASEAN for failing them

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said that his country would rescue the desperate refugees drifting at sea. This represents a reversal over what Malaysia did so far. Indonesian and Malaysian officials meet with Myanmar authorities to find a regional solution. Migrant Care expert told AsiaNews that ASEAN has not been able to respond to the drama because it is only interested in the rich.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) – Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak Malaysian has announced that his country would conduct search and rescue missions for Rohingya migrant boats in the Andaman Sea. Humanitarian aid would also be delivered by land and sea, he added.

"I have further ordered (the) Royal Malaysian Navy and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency to conduct search and rescue efforts for Rohingya boats. We have to prevent loss of life," the Malaysian leader said.

Over the past ten days, more than 3,000 people, mostly Rohingya from the former Burma, as well as migrant workers from Bangladesh, were rescued in the Andaman Sea and off the coasts of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.

Thailand’s crackdown on human trafficking after the discovery of a mass grave with dozens of bodies of Rohingya near its border with Malaysia has compounded the crisis. The refusal of entry by Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur simply made matters worse.

At present, the foreign ministers of Malaysia and Indonesia are in Myanmar to discuss the crisis and seek regional solutions.

Meanwhile, at least 7,000 people – Rohingya and migrants from Bangladesh – are presently drifting in the open sea.

According to many analysts and experts, the root of the problem lies in the persecution and abuse Rohingya face in Myanmar where the government considers them illegal migrants.

As long as the issue of the Muslim minority is not settled, the latest tragedy of boat people is expected to continue.

Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur have expressed their willingness to take in migrants who land on their shores but only for a certain period of time. The two governments insist that it is a transnational problem that needs to be addressed by the international community, with a plan of relocation and hospitality.

Interviewed by AsiaNews, Wahyu Susilo, a leading Indonesian researcher and political analyst with Migrant Care, an association at the forefront in defending the rights of migrants, said that "the tragedy of Rohingya is ASEAN’s failure".

According to the expert, the ten-nation Southeast Asian association "has failed to respond effectively to the humanitarian tragedy". As long as it applies "the principle of non-interference, it will never be able to solve such broad problems.” 

Susilo slammed ASEAN for "having closed its eyes for too long" when it comes to Myanmar, allowing the Myanmar government to promote policies of persecution against the religious minority.

The association is only interested in "the movement and interests of the rich" but "does nothing for the vulnerable."

He does not spare Indonesia and Malaysia from criticism for taking "an approach that focused only on security and not on the humanitarian aspect".

Finally, he expressed appreciation for the work, especially for the needy, provided by Catholic groups in Myanmar "like the Jesuit Refugee Services".

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