A workshop regarding the 15,951 registered in Malaysia was organized by the Institute of Malaysia and International Studies in Kuala Lumpur . The topic was “Rohingya refugees in Malaysia: Listening to Their Problems & Understanding Their Plight”. This was based on official information as of 16 December, 2009. The programme was opened and chaired by Prof Emeritus Dato’ Dr Abdu Rahman Embong (EKMAS, UKM) at 9.00 a.m.
Rohingya Advocate, Junaith, (UIA), Mr. Rafiqul Islam (PHD student, UKM) spoke on the persecution the Rohingyas have to face in Arakan, Burma. He also touched on how they escaped and entered Malaysia. He used illustrations making it easy for the audience to understand. The audience was able also to feel what it was to be a Rohingya through the presentation.
Soft-spoken Prof. Dr Azizah Kassim (IKMASUKM) led two sessions with the theme ‘The Rohingya Refugees & State in Malaysia’. She elaborated her subject and listened to the audience. During her session a number of good issues brought up. The audience raised many questions concerning the problems facing the Rohingyas and the possible solutions to these problems.
Dr Azizah Kassim pointed the fact that Malaysia has not ratified the UN Refugees Convention and therefore there are no legal mechanisms in place to give any status to refugees. Rohingyas are only allowed to stay on the basis of humanitarian grounds. Unfortunately, this does not necessarily give any protection to the refugees, who have to face on daily basis the possibility of arrest, caning, detention and deportation. This is despite the fact that some have been given UNHCR protection cards. Lack of status has also deprived Rohingya children of any education and has therefore deprived thousands of refugees’ children to the right for education in the last two decades.
En Mohd Saiful, sitting beside Ms. Habsah Muhd Sukuma, is a teacher. He discussed the whole issue of education for the refugees as best as he could and appealed to the concerned government and non-governmental authorities to come forward to ensure the articles of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC) are upheld and respected. The CRC guarantees every child the right to education. Malaysia has ratified most of these clauses.
Then, political activist, Mr. Mohd Sadek, presented a broad mass of information about the man-made problems and trauma faced by the Rohingyas. He gave illustrations and recounted many stories of the miseries and silent pains that the Rohingyas face in Malaysia. He was able to describe his intended issues to discover the solution for the Rohingya people who deserve the rights to permanent solutions. He appealed to ASEAN Governments and organizations to find a just solution through advocacy.
Ms. Habsah Muhd Sukuma (a Rohingya PhD student, UKM) has direct experience, having been in Rohingya communities to find out the situation with regard to abuse of Rohingya girls and women. She came up to the stage in the evening session and described the abuses that she witnessed and discussed the ways to help get rid of these abuses.
The Session-2 chairperson, Prof Madya Dr. Faridah Shahdan, talked on “Leadership & Employment” and she listened to the stories of sufferings and pains of the Rohingyas.
Part of the audience
The audience repeatedly and jointly voiced up the fact that without legal status, the situation is very difficult. For the Malaysian government to recognize the status of refugees is an essential step and the participants affirmed that they have confidence in the Malaysia government and relevant authorities to take the necessary actions to make this happen.
The only possible way to solution is to use and utilize primary rights and responsibilities. We will be able to obtain part of our solution at the end of January, 2010 if we start positively and continue to raise the issues and solutions, at the beginning of January, 2010.
An International Conference in Tokyo, Japan in 2008 was held and brought up whole issues and the concrete decisions necessary to be taken by Rohingya and non-Rohingya experts to solve all crises and outstanding problems. But it has resulted in a huge waste of time, money and energy because there has been no follow-up and no positive continuation of the discussions and actions necessary.
According to me, we do not focus on specific problems of the Rohingyas, therefore the Rohingyas continue to face constant problems. I have helped some vulnerable registered and unregistered refugees WRITNG letters for financial assistances and referred some specific cases to UNHCR for registration and I have seen those problems get proper solutions and got registered. Most of the Rohingya leaders claimed advocacy from the government. How does a government help if we do not cooperate with specific responsibilities?
I believe ALL Rohingyas representatives will definitely agree if IKMAS or concerned quarters work on specific areas rather than everyone looking at the bigger issues. I am trying to say that at the moment no one is dealing with specific problems plaguing the Rohingyas.
The specific areas for consideration would include:
3. Protection for authorities (information on arrest, detention and deportation);
5. Employment; and
6. Legislation (legal position).
Thank you for your valuable time and energy toward our plight.
Abdul Hashim Abdul Motalib
Burmese Rohingya Refugees Community Malaysia (BRRCM)