Indonesia and Malaysia should embrace stateless Rohingya

PUBLISHED : Friday, 03 July, 2015, 4:14pm
UPDATED : Friday, 03 July, 2015, 4:14pm

Your readers will be familiar with the plight of the Rohingya refugees, many of whom have been left stranded on boats floating in the Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea, with no food, potable water or fresh clothes.

This distinct Muslim ethnic group is effectively stateless. The Rohingyas are known to be descendants of Arab traders who have been in Myanmar for generations. They also live in other parts of Asia such as Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

The government of Myanmar says they are Bengali migrants and not a genuine ethnic group.

They have had their registration certificates revoked, depriving them of any land rights. And they cannot even apply for jobs.

Therefore, they are faced with grinding poverty, and this is what is driving them out of Myanmar and onto boats in search of better lives.

However, often the people-smugglers or crew leave them to drift at sea. For those who make it to shore, things are not much better. The smugglers will often hold them for ransom until their families pay.

Also, the neighbouring countries they are trying to reach do not want to take responsibility for them and often refuse them entry.

Islamic State is reportedly trying to recruit Rohingyas who are fleeing Myanmar. Given that there is no country they can call home and no government protecting them, they are easy targets for this group.

The vast majority of the populations of Indonesia and Malaysia are Muslim, and these are both developing economies. I believe that embracing the Rohingya population could be a win-win situation.

They could join the labour force and help the economy. This would offer the Rohingyas jobs and some stability.

I think both these nations could absorb the migrants into their labour force. This would offer a better chance to resolve the Rohingya issue.

This region has shown remarkable economic growth, and nations have progressed socially and politically.

Hopefully, by finding a solution to the Rohingya problem, Southeast Asian countries can set an example that can be followed by other nations faced with similar influxes of refugees, such as Africans trying to sneak into Europe.

Soohyun Moon, Seoul, Korea