Indonesia: Aceh citizenry and officials offer aid to Rohingya refugees

Updated On: Mar 02, 2009

Rohingya refugees are finding a much-needed haven in Aceh. The federal government of Indonesia has previously stated its willingness to help the Rohingya. In Sabang, Mayor Munawar Liza Zainal said the first group of 193 refugees who were found stranded aboard two boats in early January near Weh island off the northernmost tip of Aceh were now healthy and well.

Although the refugees have been kept off-limits to the public and media, public officials report that the refugees are being provided for.

"We have given them a public kitchen so they can cook for themselves. We have provided rice, vegetables and sardines," Munawar told IRIN, crediting foreign and international organisations, including the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the Jesuit Refugee Service, for most supplies.

Besides the efforts of public officials, the citizenry of Aceh have also been generous in their efforts to help the stranded refugees.

The Aceh Blogger Community spent two weeks raising money for the refugees, soliciting donations from motorists in Banda Aceh city, as well as raising awareness of the plight of the Rohingya on the World Wide Web through networking websites, Facebook and blogs. In total, they raised Rp5.1 million (US%428).

With volunteers from Komunitas Pengguna Linux Indonesia Aceh (Linux Users’ Community in Aceh) and Amiki Student groups, a member of the Blogger Community, Isra Safril, stressed: "This support fund for Rohingyas is not only because of solidarity with our Muslim peers; it is solidarity with all of humanity,", adding that "We did not make an issue of their ethnic group, religion and thinking."

The Indonesian government has said it would raise the issue of the Rohingya during the Bali Process, a forum of some 50 countries launched in 2002 and co-chaired by Indonesia and Australia, to address human trafficking in the Asian region. 
Over the weekend, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong backed the proposal to refer the issue to the Bali Process.

IRIN Asia, Indonesia: Aceh embraces Rohingya refugees, 24 February 2009, http://www.irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=83120

ABC News, Govt offers Indonesia assistance for Rohingya refugees, 23 Feb 2009, http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/02/23/2498833.htm

The Straits Times, PM Lee: Asean must addrss Rohingya issue or risk losing credibility, 2 March 2009.

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