ASIAN parliamentarians on Friday said Burma (Myanmar) is not safe enough for hundreds of thousands of minority Rohingya in camps in Bangladesh, calling for the two governments to halt repatriation plans expected to happen this month.
Charles Santiago, head of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights, which is comprised of elected representatives from countries that are members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), said: “This is a poorly thought-out plan”.
Santiago said Burma must first step up plans on the protection and livelihoods of Rohingya.
The minority group, Santiago said, is living under an apartheid-like system, facing restrictions on their movements, as well as access to healthcare, employment and education.
The UN estimates some 10,000 Rohingya were killed since the Burmese government and security forces, known as the Tatmadaw, began its crackdown on insurgents in August last year in an offensive that saw 390 villages destroyed.
The conflict has also seen about 700,000 Rohingya flee to refugee camps in neighbouring Bangladesh and thousands more escaping to other Southeast Asian countries.
“They were still licking their wounds, they are still living in fear,” said Santiago, a Malaysian lawmaker who led a fact-finding mission early this year to refugee camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district.
“We’re not expecting them to go back to live in barracks and as squatters,” he said, as quoted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Senior Burmese foreign ministry official, Myint Thu, previously said the government was ensuring “a secure environment” for the returnees.
Hundreds of Rohingya refugees and asylums seekers told Human Rights Watch (HRW) they would only go home if Burma guaranteed “security, access to land and livelihoods, freedom of movement, citizenship rights.”
Bill Frelick, the group’s refugee rights director, in statement donors should not support the repatriation plan
“Myanmar’s (Burma’s) government keeps talking about returns, but it has done nothing to allay the Rohingya’s fears of being returned to the same violence and oppression they fled.”