AI Calls for Access to Rohingya

30 Jan 2009, source from irrawaddy news,

A leading international rights group, Amnesty International, called on regional countries on Thursday to address the plight of Rohingya migrants and grant the UN immediate access to the detained boat people.

Amnesty International sent an open letter on Thursday to the governments of Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Burma and expressed its concern on the issue of Rohingya migrants.

“We write to you to raise our serious concern about the plight of the Rohingyas,” the rights group said in the letter.  

It also urged the six regional countries to grant the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) immediate access to detained Rohingya in order to determine whether they need international protection. 

The group asked the Burmese military government to stop persecution of the Rohingya people who live in Arakan State in western Burma.  

On Friday, a Burmese state-run newspaper, Myanmar Ahlin, carried a story that claimed the Rohingya are not among Burma’s more than 100 ethnic minority groups.

“It will be complicated if Thai authorities repatriate the 66 Rohingya migrants to Burma,” the report said, referring to an earlier group of detainees. 

However, Kitty McKinsey, who is the regional spokeswoman for UNHCR in Asia, told The Irrawaddy on Friday that the detained migrants were clearly Rohingya, and they departed from Burma.

The UNHCR was granted access to 12 Rohingya teenagers from a group of 78 Rohingya who were rescued by the Thai navy on Monday night. She said the teenagers are in good condition.

The health of the remaining Rohingya is unknown. The UNHCR is in discussions with the Thai government to obtain access to those in detention, she said.

Kasit Piromya, the Thai Foreign Minister, told reporters in Bangkok on Thursday that he has agreed “in principle” to grant UNHCR access to the detained Rohingya boat people after talks were held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.     

Meanwhile, two leading US-based rights groups, Refugees International and Human Rights Watch, claim the Thai navy has mistreated hundreds of Rohingya boat people who left from Burma, forcing many of them back out to international water with limited food and water. The groups said as many as 300 Rohingya are missing.     

Thailand has denied the charges, but in a statement released on a Web site on Wednesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “should concrete evidence be presented, the Thai Government would seriously look into such cases.”  

Last week, Foreign Ministry officials met with envoys from India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Malaysia and Burma to discuss the exodus of the Rohingya from Burma.

Due to alleged discrimination against the Rohinya people, there has been a persistent exodus of Rohingya from Burma and Bangladesh since the early 1990s in an effort to reach Thailand and Malaysia.
Chris Lewa, an expert on Rohingya issues, said the number of boat people may increase this year due to the impact of the global economic downturn on one of the poorest regions of Asia.

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  • Rohingya Boat People Watching Group  On February 1, 2009 at 10:21 am

    Press Release:
    Date: February 1, 2009

    UNHCR must stop boat traveling of Rohingya

    Rohingya Boat People Watching Group is deeply shocked over the involvement of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Kuala Lumpur in encouragement of dangerous traveling for the persecuted Rohingyas.

    Recently, the UN Refugee Agency has asked Rohingya Information Center (RIC), a separatist group led by Abdul Ghani and Haji Mubarak to enlist undocumented Rohingya refugees in Malaysia which involved in making money to support both UNHCR’ Field Survey Team and Protection Unit.

    Following the collection of lists, at least 15 to 20 boats of Rohingya people are ready to jump into the sea to come to Malaysia as most of their relatives and friends have sent information in Arakan State that UNHCR in Malaysia is going give International Citizenship Cards for the Rohingya by late February and early March 2009. Later, the Government of Malaysia will issue Malaysian Citizenship Card together with those who were registered for IMM-13 in August 2006.

    During the times of IMM-13 registration, the populations of Rohingya refugees in Malaysia were around 15,000 but that increased more than 20000 within 15 days as Rohingyas from and Rangoon managed to be here who also paid a huge amount of bribe to RIC members for early registration. Following this corruption report, the Malaysia Immigration authority was compelled to stop further process.

    Similarly, the genuine Rohingya refugee groups together with Burmese democratic forces are trying utmost to open new registration for all Burmese undocumented refugees but the corrupted agency (RIC) met with some Malaysian local staffs and agreed to get enlist undocumented people from whom at least RM 50 can be made for their selves benefits.

    As their agreement, the RIC has already assigned its respected representatives such as Mustafa Kamal in Johor Baru, Ustaz Mohammed Islam Sultan Ahmed for Penang, Amin Ullah for Ampang, Mohammed and Yunus for Selayang; Zakaria in Kalng Meru.

    Haji Mubarak and Abdul Ghani are closely dealing with respective representatives and send partial payments to UNHCR through Mohd Ali Yusuf and Muktar Ahmed (both are corrupted interpreters of UNHCR).

    Meanwhile, the UNHCR in Kuala Lumpur must take responsibilities Rohingya boat people who are on the way to dangerous traveling in the sea because the office encourages the trafficking agents and corrupted groups to bring more Rohingya boat people in Malaysia in order to continuous application of the agency’s policy towards marginalization of Rohingya in Malaysia by mean of temporary solution.

    So, we urge upon UNHCR to immediately cease all kinds of ill-motives in pushing people in danger and thus must stop boat traveling of Rohingyas from Arakan State, Burma (Myanmar). It also must register all those undocumented refugees who are passing vulnerable lives. It would also protect all the boat people who are stranded in Indonesia and Thailand without any hesitation.

    Rohingya Boat People Watching Group

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