Scores of boats are currently believed to be adrift in the Andaman Sea with up to 10,000 people onboard. Hundreds of the ethnic minority, mainly Muslim refugees from Myanmar, have made it ashore in the past couple of weeks, despite initially being forced back to sea as countries in the region — including Australia — ruled out taking them in.
And yet, the government of Myanmar, the source country that produced these migrants continues to lie and deny their responsibility for the horrendous crimes that it has been perpetrating against these people. Speaker of Myanmar parliament's upper house, Khin Aung Myint, was in Canberra to help open the new Myanmar Research Centre at the Australian National University (ANU).
Speaking through a translator Myint today criticized calls for Myanmar to accept the refugees and argued other countries also refused to welcome them. "I want to urge everyone, to look at everyone among these boat people, they cannot speak the Myanmar language, and they don't look like Myanmar people," Mr Myint said.
"When you try to investigate, clearly they are not from Myanmar. "We're also aware that Australia is not accepting them, likewise Myanmar cannot accept them." Myint further asserted, "During the British colonisation, Myanmar was a part of India, and a lot of labourers migrated to Myanmar."
Again, that age old racist excuse: the 'other' people are racially different and they don't speak like 'us.' I am not amused. Yes, the Rohingya people, who are the first settlers in the crescent of the Arakan state are of Indian origin, as were their Chandra rulers before the pale-faced Mongoloids from Tibet and Burma over-ran the place nearly a thousand years ago. To claim that they are a British-era phenomenon is to deny their origin and history.
As reported in the ABC news, Myint's is a position the Rohingyan people do not agree with, including Kyaw Min from the Democracy and Human Rights Party.
"Perhaps the human traffickers had brought some Bengali also from Bangladesh," Mr Min said. "It has created a sort of complication. "These people, in my hope should be returned to their native place, and they should be resettled and they should have some opportunities there, so they are not in a circumstance that will compel them to flee their land."
Mr Min spent years in jail, and has since had his citizenship status changed.
"The international community should be aware of this problem, the seriousness of this problem," he said.
"The Rohingyas have two options, one to live in their camps and die there soon, or flee from the camp and face some unpredictable risks in the future."
Mr Min has called on the international community to step up.
"These people have the right to enjoy the protections of international community," he said. "If the international community do not engage in their obligation, it is the failure of the international community — [the] so-called civilised world."
The ANU Myanmar Research Centre plans to build on the breadth of knowledge the university has in South-East Asian affairs, according to the School of Asia Pacific Affairs Nicholas Farrelly. "The Myanmar government over many decades now has mistreated this Rohingya population in ways that have forced many people to seek sanctuary elsewhere," he said.
"There are perhaps half a million Rohingya living in relatively insecure conditions across the border in Bangladesh, it's only natural that some will also seek out safe havens across the Andaman Sea. "It's difficult for many Myanmar powerbrokers to directly broach aspects of this particular issue, within Myanmar, the topic of the Rohingya is incredibly sensitive, indeed explosively so," said Farrelly.