Citing Rising Xenophobia Pm Wants Safe Return For Myanmar Refugees
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin told Asean leaders today that Malaysia wants Myanmar asylum seekers, including Rohingya refugees, to be granted "safe return" due to “anti-refugee sentiments” in the country.
This is despite the currently violent political instability in Myanmar where the military is accused of opening fire at protestors.
Speaking at the Asean Leaders’ Meeting in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, he called for an end to the violence but also pointed out how regional nations like Malaysia were affected by it.
Muhyiddin said detention centres in Malaysia were more than full while xenophobia was high.
“Our resources and capacity are stretched in the management of refugees and asylum seekers, further compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our detention centres are now already overcrowded and the promise from third countries to resettle these displaced persons (has) not been forthcoming.
“Within Malaysia, they were once accorded sympathy, but the mood on the ground has turned from affinity to anger, with anti-refugee sentiment rapidly building up,” he said.
Expressing concern that the 200,000 Myanmar refugees in Malaysia were vulnerable to human traffickers and terrorist recruiters, Muhyiddin called for them to be returned to their country of origin.
“It is on that note that we strongly call for a voluntary, safe and dignified return of displaced persons to Myanmar and for all Asean member states to have a collective responsibility in handling displaced persons in this region.
“With the return to normalcy, we wish to see the continuation of the agreed repatriation mechanism reached between Bangladesh and Myanmar,” he said.
Min Aung Hlaing (left) arrives for the Asean Leaders Meeting in Jakarta
Malaysian law does not recognise refugees and often classifies them as undocumented migrants. They are not legally allowed to work or attend public schools.
Let Asean in
The Asean Leaders Meeting is controversial for according recognition to Myanmar’s junta leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing who led a coup on Feb 1 to topple the country’s elected civilian government.
Chaired by Brunei ruler Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, the meeting’s aim is to seek a solution to the Myanmar crisis which has seen more than 700 people killed.
In his speech, Muhyiddin wanted an “immediate” stop to the violence and political dialogue between Myanmar and Asean.
He also reiterated Malaysia's call for all political detainees to be freed.
The Myanmar junta has continued to detain Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President U Win Myint and several cabinet members.
“This would be a good starting point and ease international pressure on Myanmar and Asean,” he said.
He stressed that Asean must intervene and urged Myanmar to grant the bloc access to the country.
“This is much needed for Asean to provide an honest and unbiased observation.
“If Asean is allowed access, this can demonstrate to the world that it is on track in helping Myanmar restore normalcy in the country,” he said.
Muhyiddin also proposed Asean collaborate with Myanmar to provide “regular updates” and said the bloc would extend humanitarian help to those affected by the crisis. - Mkini
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