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Regional states must pressure Myanmar: HRW

29 May 2015 12:42


Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called on the participants in an Asian summit to put more pressure on the Myanmar government over its mistreatment of ethnic Rohingya Muslims, who are fleeing violence and persecution in the Southeast Asian country.

Seventeen countries, including Myanmar, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Australia, New Zealand, Afghanistan and Iran, are attending the regional meeting on the migrant crisis in Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, on Friday.

On Thursday, the HRW urged the states attending the event to “exert pressure” on Myanmar as the “main source of the problem,” and provide basic health, education, and other services for Rohingya stranded at sea.

An estimated 25,000 Southeast Asian migrants took to the seas in the first three months of 2015, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Rohingya Muslims, who flee persecution and violence in Myanmar’s western Rakhine State, make up the majority of those left stranded at sea in recent weeks.

The HRW said that the rights of those people stranded at sea or residing in refugee camps should be the top priority of the meeting, adding the success of Friday’s regional meeting depends on governments no longer turning a blind eye to the crisis.

“Regional governments should work with the United Nations and others to agree on binding solutions to this human tragedy – not sweep it under the rug as they have done for years,” said Brad Adams, the HRW Asia director, in a statement.

The HRW also called on the regional governments to put pressure on Bangladesh to stop its policy of pushing back migrant boats and to “end its persecution of Rohingya.”

“The ending of human rights abuses in the source countries of Burma and Bangladesh needs to be matched by Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, with support from other countries, taking humanitarian action to receive and protect refugees fleeing persecution,” it said.

The Rohingya Muslim minority group has witnessed attacks from extremist Buddhists in Myanmar. The violence has forced about 100,000 people to flee the country.

The migrant crisis began when a crackdown by Thai authorities on human-smuggling camps scared traffickers into abandoning their boats. Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia then began turning away boats, leaving thousands in dangerous conditions.

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