As the plight of 8000 Rohingya refugees, stranded on boats, in the Andaman Sea, continues, we report on the recent discovery of a mass grave of Rohingya people on the Thai-Malaysia border. We also include a statement released by the Arakan Rohingya National Organisation on the current crisis. The Rohingya people, largely of Rakhine province in Myanmar, have been persecuted for centuries and were subject to a series of massacres in 2012/13 by ethnic Buddhists in Myanmar. Many Rohingya have fled, taking to the seas, but no country will taken them in – in effect, they are classified as ‘stateless’.
News has emerged that at least 32 graves were discovered at what is thought to be a human-trafficking camp near the Malaysian border. Four bodies exhumed from graves were suspected to be Rohingya Muslim refugees. A team of more than 100 police and military officers, local officials, forensic officials and rescue workers examined the remote camp atop Khao Kaew mountain in Tambon Padang Besar in Songkhla’s Sadao district. It is only 300 metres from the northern Malaysian state of Perlis. The border area between Thailand and Malaysia is notorious for its network of secret camps where smuggled Rohingya migrants are held, usually against their will until relatives pay hefty ransoms.
Police Maj Gen Thawatchai Pitaneelabutr, commander of Thailand’s Immigration Division 6, said there are three human-trafficking groups involved in smuggling of Rohingya refugees in Songkhla. The groups only smuggle in the refugees and put them in the camp temporarily, before sending them to third countries, Thawatchai said.
According to the statement of one Rohingya political activist, Mohamed Ayub bin Kalamia, the persistent denial of Burmese authorities of the existence of Rohingya in western Burma is the long term plan of the Burmese Government, led by President Thein Sein, which has refused to agree to hold talks on the Rohingya issue. The Arakan Project, an NGO concerned with the plight of the Rohingya, believe that 8,000 migrants are adrift on the seas in overcrowded boats – some have been adrift for almost three months.
Meanwhile in Myanmar attacks on Rohingya villages continue. A few days ago shops were set alight by a mob in Central Masjid at Minba Gyi Road in Maungdaw. Around 16 shops were destroyed (see photo below).
Statement by Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO):
The Arakan Rohingya National Organisation (ARNO) calls for immediate help of the regional countries and international community to rescue and save the lives of thousands of abandoned Rohingya and Bangladeshi boat people floating off the coasts of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.
The deserted boat people, consisting of Rohingya women and children fleeing large-scale persecution and mass atrocity crimes in Burma, are now in distress and trauma, and they are facing starvation. They are in danger of being lost and deserve all assistance and shelter, well in time, from the international community in accordance with article 98 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. In this connection, we appeal to the costal countries in the region to provide necessary search and rescue services.
We reiterate that the root cause of these human tragedies should be addressed. The Burmese/Myanmar government has to bear all responsibility for the untold sufferings of the Rohingya people for not allowing them to have a peaceful living in their own homeland.
The issue is, no doubt, an ASEAN issue particularly when the refugees have reached the soils of ASEAN countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. The issue must be discussed in ASEAN for a regional solution to be found out in cooperation with other affected countries and international community. Human rights are universal and Burma should not be allowed to call it her domestic affairs.
Meanwhile, U.N. should intervene in the matter, on ground of humanitarianism, in order to save the lives of thousands of people victimized at the hands of the human traffickers and smugglers, and for a permanent solution of the Rohingya problem.
14 May 2015