Sunday, March 9, 2014
Local Rohingya group seeks dialogue
A refugee association urges Putrajaya to play peacemaker for rival Myanmar associations.
PETALING JAYA: A local Rohingya association has urged the Malaysian government to mediate between various groups of Myanmar refugees in the country to end the distrust among them that has sometimes led to violence.
Mohamad Sadek, programme coordinator for the Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee, suggested that Putrajaya work with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to initiate dialogue between the different groups.
Sadek told FMT that the Rohingya, who are Muslims, had good relations with other Myanmar refugee groups before the ethnic conflict in their country started making international headlines.
Myanmar has been embroiled in ethnic violence since the country began its transition from military rule to democracy about three years ago.
According to Sadek, the distrust between the different ethnic groups had since spread among refugees in Malaysia. He said this should explain the reported local cases of murders and revenge killings involving Myanmar nationals in the country.
“I had good contacts with other groups before, but the violence in Myanmar has changed things,” he said.
“It is hard to maintain that kind of relationship because no one feels comfortable any more. Trust is missing.”
However, Sadek is optimistic that the previous good relationship can be rebuilt through sincere dialogue.
“With dialogues, meetings and get-together sessions, we can rebuild the trust,” he said.
“We need the government of Malaysia to play a role in initiating such meetings. The government is well aware of the existence of the different groups and it can bring them together into one room.
“In addition, we have the UN, which keeps information about all these groups.
“Together, we can all sit down and discuss what is to be done.”
Asked whether he believed next year’s parliamentary election in Myanmar would herald changes for the better, Sadek said he was not optimistic.
“It will be another unfair election, just like the election in 2010,” he said.
He spoke with bitterness on what he called the “Burmanisation programme” in Myanmar, saying it would continue even after next year’s election.
“This is a programme where everyone in Burma must become a Burmese. If you’re not Burmese, you can’t become a citizen in Burma. Second, you have to be Buddhist. If you’re not, again you’ll not be given citizenship. There is a third part to the programme—militarisation. Everyone must obey the military rule.
“So the 2015 election won’t change a thing for the Rohingya. We’ll continue to be persecuted.”
He urged international agencies to engage with the Mynmar government and pressure it to recognise the Rohingya as citizens of the country.