Sunday, 5 May 2013

Burma's Unwanted Rohingya 'Ogres' Now Aiming for Australia

Tourism News

Mohammed Salim, hoping to be able to bring his family to Australia

By Chutima Sidasathian and Alan Morison

Sunday, May 5, 2013
News Analysis

PHUKET: Australia is the new destination of choice for some captive boatpeople in Thailand after the surprise appearance this week of an adventurous young Rohingya refugee from Adelaide.

Mohammed Salim, who carries international travel documents and a UNHCR card, has flown from Australia to be reunited with his mother and three brothers at a Thai government family care centre north of Phuket.

His aim: to bring them back to Adelaide in South Australia, where he is a student, as soon as possible.

Mohammed's ambition is likely to be successful, according to Thailand's Immigration Bureau chief, Major General Panu Kerdlabpon, who toldPhuketwan when he was in Phuket this week that Mohammed's application needs to be made at government to government level. 
Thailand has been looking for ''third countries'' willing to take Rohingya migrants and remains unsure about what to do with its 1934 captive boatpeople. Australia is an option for some.

Mohammed turned up this week at the refuge centre in Phang Nga, north of Phuket., where his mother and two of his brothers are being detained among 72 women and children, just one of many groups being held indefinitely in Thailand.

Another teenage brother is among mostly adult Rohingya men at the Phang Nga Immigration centre.

Mohammed told Phuketwan that he fled Burma by boat in 2003, spent seven years in Malaysia, then travelled via Indonesia to Australia where he spent 11 months in detention before being granted a refugee visa.

''My father and my older brother were 'lost' in the Buddhist violence in Sittwe last year,'' said Mohammed, 28. ''The rest of my family fled by boat. I want to bring them to Australia. It is better than Malaysia.''
A friend in Malaysia alerted Mohammed to the presence of his mother and brothers in the centre north of Phuket, where the appearance of every smartphone brings requests to make calls to Malaysia, Burma, or other countries.

Hundreds of Rohingya have been detained in Thailand since January when Thai officials realised that women and children were fleeing to sea for the first time with their menfolk because of ethnic cleansing in Burma's Rakhine state.

Their status and eventual fate remain undetermined. But none of them want to return to Burma, where they are treated as outcasts, denied citizenship and in danger of being killed by their Buddhist neighbors.

Chances of the Rohingya ever being recognised became slimmer this week with the release of an official Burmese government report investigating the violence in Rakhine state in which about 200 people were killed and more than 8000 homes burned.

The report referred to Rohingya throughout as ''Bengalis.'' The report added weight to the widening impression that racism, encouraged under the decades-long rule of the military, has been allowed to flourish openly under new freedoms. Long-suppressed intolerance has become violence.

Even democracy icon and Nobel prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has been shown to be locked into a racist outlook.

A spokesperson for the once highly-regarded opposition leader said this week: ''She believes, in Burma, there is no Rohingya ethnic group. It is a made-up name of the Bengali. So she can't say anything about Rohingya. But there is international pressure for her to speak about Rohingya. It's a problem.''

Even if the centuries of Rohingya living in Burma is denied by seemingly intelligent people, their treatment remains, as Human Rights Watch concluded days before the contradictory official Burmese government report, ''a crime against humanity.''

Back in 2009, a Burmese envoy spoke about Rohingya being unwanted in Burma because they were ''ugly as ogres.'' ''You will see in the photos that their complexion is 'dark brown,''' he added, noting that the complexion of true Burmese is ''fair and soft, good-looking as well.''

Racism encouraged under the junta is simply expressed more openly these days through murder, rape and ethnic cleansing inside Burma.

So far Phuketwan has yet to find a single ogre among the men, women and children who have sought passage through Thailand to Malaysia because they fear certain death in Burma. We hope some of them make it to Australia.


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not sure why a a Thai government official deems it necessary to comment on a another country's immigration policy ... got little to do with Thailand and their "Pontious Pilot" attitude
Posted by david on May 5, 2013 13:25
Editor Comment:
He was responding to a question from Phuketwan and is under no restrictions on expressing his opinion about this specific case, or any other case.

The time frame for detention period by Thai government is to be ended in July. I ardently asked Thailand in many occasion to allow UNHCR freely work of Rohingyas detainees.This is the main factor for UNHCR to get clear permission from the respective government.

First UNHCR should get full authority to get permission from the govt to interview the detainees and clarify to be refugee.

Secondly with the reference of UNHCR , Australia Embassy can easily issue travel document for Mohamed Salim family.
Thirdly, it is easy for Thai Authority to allow Immigration clearance for detainees refugees.
The whole process is depend on respective Thai authority . If they agree, all these 2000 Rohingya detanees including Salim's family members problem will be solved so smoothly.
So,this is my sincere request to every NGOs,civil society and Human Rights orgs to work unitedly for seeking permission from Thai Government regarding UNHCR full authority in Refugee determination cases.
This the only solution for Mohamad Salim family and other Rohingya detainees in Thailand.
The detainees gain clear mandate from UNHCR is the SOLUTION.

Let's focus our work to convince the respective Thai government first .
Thanks in advance,
Posted by Maung Kyaw Nu,President,Burmese Rohingya Association in Thailand ,BRAT on May 5, 2013 17:35
Australia has lots of room and is full of lovely tolerant well meaning people who will welcome the large amount of Rohingya Muslim refugees with open arms, will their boats be able to take them or will the Australian government possibly send a couple of ships to pick them and the other Rohingya refugees in the surrounding countries up lets just hope so for the Rohingya sake so they can keep their identity and traditions going from down under.
Posted by Scunner on May 5, 2013 18:30
Editor Comment:
Australia has been absorbing boatloads of people in need since 1788 and it's a positive economic indicator so there should be no problems.
The Australian Government may have different ideas he's already entered that country illegally once already gets refugee status by the gracious Australian people this is not carte blanche to bring your whole extended family there, Im sure Thailand are more than pleased to export there problems elsewhere.
Posted by slickmelb on May 5, 2013 18:31
Editor Comment:
Doesn't Australia have unrivaled prosperity, or are its politicians distorting the truth? Certainly, Australia should continue to embrace real refugees. They've accepted this man as a real refugee. Now his family, with two members 'lost' in the violence, are clearly also real refugees. But it's Burma - and Burma alone - that's ''exporting the problem''. What a shame the world ignores it.
When there is war against muslims, fellow muslims around the world call to arms. Indonesian nutcase Bashir has called for jeehad against Burmese Buddhists so why when there are desperate people like this do muslim countries not open their arms to help?
No it's much easier to send them to a rich country full of infidels that they hate to bludge off. Pathetic.
Posted by Peter on May 5, 2013 19:22
Editor Comment:
Your comment is as extremist and ignorant as anything Bashir has said.
Since when has religion been the determining factor in providing help to those in need?
Are Indonesia and Malaysia fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan? really?

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