Don’t turn away boatpeople, Tenaganita tells Malaysia

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(May 14): A non-governmental organisation today told Putrajaya not to turn away desperate boat migrants from Myanmar as it was feared to be an imminent humanitarian crisis.

Tenaganita women's force director Glorene A. Das said the influx of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar was an Asean problem, of which Malaysia and Myanmar were members.

She added that the bloc should open its doors to those stranded and give full protection to the migrants.

"Is Malaysia prepared to host thousands of children, women and men who are suffering out at sea?

"Sending them back or detaining them is not the answer. They are fleeing for protection and for the safety of their lives, as such we must do the needful," she said today.

She also called on Asean ministers to meet immediately to demand Myanmar to stop its atrocities towards the 1.3 million Rohingya.

The United Nations had said the Muslim Rohingya – who live in Myanmar's Rakhine state – are one of the world's most persecuted minorities.

The community is deemed stateless by Buddhist-majority Myanmar and many have left the country due to discrimination and sectarian violence.

"The refugees should not be treated as criminals for not holding documents, because it is Burma who has failed to recognise them and give them valid documents of identify and status," said Glorene, referring to Myanmar by its old name.

"They have been living in Burma since the 14th century, Burma has to accept them as citizens and take them in. There should also be full protection and recognition, they must be granted valid documents as citizens."

Following a crackdown by the Thai authorities on people smuggling, thousands of boat people were abandoned by smugglers or adrift at sea.

AFP reported that at least 2,000 people have been rescued, had swum ashore or turned away in Malaysian and Indonesian waters since last weekend.

In beefing up air and sea operations, Malaysia said it would turn away boats with migrants from Myanmar and Bangladesh unless they were in danger of sinking. – The Malaysian Insider