05/26/2015, 00.00
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Tints Swe: international lobby and Burmese military regime behind Rohingya crisis

by Francis Khoo Thwe
Activist maintains there are "invisible hands" complicating the plight of modern-day boat-people. Naypyidaw is only interested in maintaining power and exploiting the nationalist element ahead of elections. The international community exerts undue pressure and pursues its own interests. The real challenge is "to stop human trafficking."

Yangon (AsiaNews) - The increasing "international pressure" on Myanmar and the "mismanagement" of the problem by the Burmese regime are certainly not helping  to resolve the drama of those "less fortunate". Moreover, there are "invisible, and stronger hands " complicating the issue of modern-day boat people - RohingyaMuslims from Myanmar and migrant workers from Bangladesh.

This is according to Tint Swe, president of the Burma Center Delhi in India, formerly the overseas representative of the National League for Democracy (NLD), a prominent exiled Burmese activist. Speaking to AsiaNews, he says that the Naypyidaw government  "is not interested in the good of the country and its people" regardless of the religion they profess.

Their only objective is to retain power ahead of elections next October. "If the price to pay to maintain control is to guarantee citizenship to anyone, regardless of religion - adds Tint Swe - [the military] will be ready to do so."

In the past ten days, more than 3,000 people, mostly from Myanmar and Bangladesh, have been rescued in the Andaman Sea and off the coast 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 push back policy adopted by Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur simply made matters worse.  The two nations later rowed back on the policy following a Foreign Ministers summit. ASEAN and other parties touched by human trafficking are set to meet in Bangkok on 29 May to address the issue.  

However, for the activist and expert on Burmese affairs ASEAN "does not have the political and moral authority" to intervene in the affair. "There are two elements - said Tint Swe - that complicate the picture even more: the Burmese government itself and the international community, in the hands of a lobby pursuing only part of the interest at stake ".

With regard to domestic policy, the military are exploiting the Rohingya problem to gain more support among nationalists ahead of elections later this year.  Recently - he says –“ the Parliament passed the controversial law on population control. All that the military is doing is buying votes. "

Another problem is the, “disproportionate outside pressure" on Myanmar under the guise of defending human rights of persecuted minority. "The international community – he warns - must understand the exact nature and the root cause of the Rohingya issue. It is absolutely fine to work for humanitarian ground and human rights. But the world is asking for citizenship and amendment of the 1982 citizenship law. Is there any nation in which the domestic matter of such was deliberately interfered? ".

According Tint Swe the real problem is "human trafficking", this is the "real challenge" that must be addressed and resolved. "These criminals - he added - will carry any person who can pay for a boat ride. They can be from any country and any citizen”. He notes, however, that the international media will only talk about the Rohingya and Myanmar, while the problem is more widespread and articulated. The activist spares no criticism of the idea of repatriation to their places of origin, because "it is clear and obvious" that Burma and Bangladesh "are not the best place in which to live. And leaving aside Bangladesh, Burma has not changed [compared to the repression of the past] as some would instead have us believe".

"There are at least three million Burmese citizens of different religions who live outside the country – recalls Tint Swe - and over 80% of them left Myanmar illegally. But no one talks about this issue. " The Burmese activist is also critical of the Muslim majority nations in the region, including Indonesia and Malaysia, which "have long ignored" the problem "of Muslim immigration" to their territory. In India and Pakistan, he adds, "only extremist groups" have intervened in defense of the Rohingya. And also other ASEAN nations with a Muslim majority, such as Brunei, "have done littel" to help the Muslim boat people and irregular migrants in the region.

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