FPIF's Walden Bello has recently published an article in its website - Slavery, Genocide, Abuse: The Dark Side of Asia’s ‘Tiger Economies’.
Excerpts are quoted below. For reading the entire piece, please, click here.
A few years ago, Southeast Asia’s rapidly growing “tiger economies” were the envy of the world. Today, the area is better known for a trio of maladies: ethnic cleansing, burgeoning inequality, and super-exploited labor.
The sorry state of human rights and labor protections in the region has been driven home by three events that captured the world’s attention.
On the high seas, thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar found themselves stranded and desperate when neighboring states refused to accept them. In Indonesia, investigators discovered illegal fish factories run by captive migrant laborers. And last May in the Philippines, 72 workers perished in a horrific factory fire.
As the Association of Southeast Asian States, or ASEAN, prepares to integrate the region’s economies by the end of 2015, it’s worth asking what it is these countries will be combining — their markets or their deep-seated social problems?
Ethnic Cleansing in Myanmar
The plight of the Rohingya is the culmination of three years of riots and violent attacks directed at Burma’s Muslim minority, who make up over 30 percent of the population in the state of Rakhine.
Tensions between the Rohingya and the Buddhist majority have been building for years. With the easing of military control as the country makes its jerky transition to democracy, friction has given way to violence, oftentimes sparked by wild allegations of Rohingya men raping Buddhist women.
Burmese authorities officially consider the 1.3 million Rohingya to be stateless intruders from neighboring Bangladesh, largely abandoning them to the tender mercies of Buddhist mobs often led by monks. The result has been the region’s worst case of ethnic cleansing in modern memory.
To escape brutal persecution, many Rohingya have increasingly resorted to flight, contracting smugglers and traffickers to bring them by sea and land to other countries. This option has turned out to be as perilous as staying. Traffickers have sold many Rohingya, along with other Burmese, as forced labor to the notorious Thai fishing industry. Others are met with hostile receptions from neighboring countries.
Last month, an estimated 7,000 Rohingya refugees crammed into fragile boats bound for friendlier shores. Yet they were repelled by the Thai, Malaysian, and Indonesian navies and left floating aimlessly in the Indian Ocean and Andaman Sea.
Under pressure from the United Nations and other international bodies, Myanmar’s neighbors eventually softened their stance toward the refugees. The Philippines opened its borders to some. And after heavy criticism, so did Malaysia and Indonesia — if only grudgingly. Thailand, however, made clear it would not offer asylum to any of them, a hardline stance also adopted by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott.
Voices from all over the globe, including the United Nations General Assembly, have called on the Myanmar government to end the ethnic cleansing and give citizenship rights to the Rohingya. One voice, however, has been notably silent: Nobel Prize laureate Aung Sang Suu Kyi.
Never in the last three years has the famed pro-democracy advocate spoken on behalf of the Rohingya, even if only to ask her Buddhist compatriots to stop persecuting them. Owing to international pressure, her party, the National League for Democracy, has — finally and grudgingly — called for citizenship for the Rohingya. But the statement was not issued in her name.
Observers speculate that Suu Kyi hopes to avoid offending the country’s Buddhist majority, whose votes her party needs in Burma’s coming electoral contests — and which she herself will need if she runs for president. But the longer “Daw Suu” stays silent, the more people will conclude that she doesn’t believe the Rohingya deserve to be citizens either — and the more this global moral icon will be regarded as complicit in genocide.