Indonesia has criticized ASEAN member states for their alleged abuse of minorities and refugees and called on them to stop in accordance with principles of human rights set out in the new charter of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). In thinly-veiled references to “countries of origin (of minority groups)”, and countries who must “stop casting them (refugees) out to sea”, Indonesia's foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda criticized Myanmar and Thailand’s behavior toward members of the minority Rohingya group.
Indonesia also said it is considering granting refugee status and protection to the Muslim migrants from Myanmar on the basis of religious persecution, and will invite the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to make an assessment of the situation. Indonesia previously maintained that the Rohingya were economic migrants.
In recent weeks, boats holding hundreds of the minority Muslim Rohingya group have been found in Indonesian and Indian waters. They originate from Myanmar, and allege abuse at the hands of Myanmar’s military regime. There have also been accounts of Thai security forces beating migrants who landed on Thailand’s shores, and towing them back out to sea.
The Bengali-speaking Muslims are not given normal rights of citizenship in military-ruled Myanmar, leading to discrimination and abuse, according to rights groups such as Amnesty International. A Myanmar government official on Thursday denied that there were any Rohingya in Myanmar, despite reports that up to 700,000 of the minority live in its western regions near the border with Bangladesh.
Thailand has no plans to allow refugee status for these migrants and has denied the allegations of migrant abuse. New premier Abhisit Vejjajiva has promised an enquiry into the matter.
Channel NewsAsia, Thailand denies fresh migrant abuse claims, 5 February 2009 http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/406913/1/.ht...
Channel NewsAsia, Indonesia Backtracks on Myanmar Migrants , 6 Feb 2009, http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stories/afp_asiapacific/view/407297/1/.ht...
Voice of America, Indonesia Criticizes Thailand for Towing Burmese Muslims Out to Sea
7 Feb 2009, http://www.voanews.com/english/2009-02-07-voa11.cfm