Malaysia aims to play bigger role within ASEAN to end Rohingya suffering 

Rohingya girls in their classroom in Chakmarkul refugee camp, Bangladesh. (AP)
Updated 15 September 2018
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Malaysia aims to play bigger role within ASEAN to end Rohingya suffering 

KUALA LUMPUR: The Pakatan Harapan (PH) ruling coalition in Malaysia continues to criticize Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s treatment of the Rohingya. 
And the coalition senior leader Fahmi Fadzil told Arab News on Friday that Malaysia should play a bigger role within ASEAN to stop Myanmar atrocities.
Fahmi Fadzil, a member of Parliament from the People’s Justice Party (PKR), told Arab News that he agreed with the PKR president. “The Malaysian government can and has to play a bigger role within the framework of ASEAN vis-a-vis Myanmar and the Rohingya humanitarian crisis,” he said.
He added that ratifying the UN refugee convention would be “a progressive step toward fulfilling our commitment to universal human rights.”
This week Anwar Ibrahim, who is in line to become Malaysia’s next premier in the next two years, blasted Aung San Suu Kyi for her silence over the regime’s mistreatment of Rohingya.
“Aung San Suu Kyi is a real, real disappointment,” Anwar said during an interview at Bloomberg Television in Hong Kong.
Maria Chin, a PH member of Parliament, supported Anwar in criticizing Suu Kyi. “The new government is committed to taking care of the Rohingyas,” she said, adding that the PH government would eventually ratify the UN refugee convention, but it would take time.
“It is not just the signing but adherence and change of mindset toward refugees and protecting their rights,” she said.
The Rohingya are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world; many live in deplorable conditions and face human rights violations and abuse on a daily basis. A UN report released last month accused top military officers in Myanmar of war crimes amounting to genocide against the Rohingya.
“This problem is partly because of ASEAN. It has protected this regime even when it is under military rule from international pressure over human rights violations. That is why they can get away with it,” said Debbie Stothard, the secretary-general of the International Federation for Human Rights.
The Myanmar government has intensified its grip over the Rohingya issue. This month, two Reuters journalists were jailed for reporting on the Rohingya crisis in Rakhine state. Last week, the Thai authorities stopped a conference organized by the Thailand Foreign Correspondent Club from discussing the Rohingya situation.

Eric Paulsen, legal director of Fortify Rights, told Arab News that he was optimistic about the new government. “Their policy on refugees, although still problematic, has developed over time and it is hopeful that in the new Malaysia, the government will take the leap to take the rights of refugees more seriously by ratifying the 1951 Refugee Convention,” he said.
Lilianne Fan, of the Geutanyoe Foundation, told Arab News that Malaysia had the strongest stance in ASEAN on the Rohingya situation in response to the UN report. The Malaysia foreign minister urged the Myanmar foreign minister last month to hold those responsible accountable for war crimes against humanity under the UN Genocide Convention.
The view was not shared by Dina Zaman, cofounder of the Malaysia-based think tank Imam Research. “(ASEAN’s) non-interference policy is still standing with the PH government. Malaysia doesn’t want to play a stronger role because other countries such as Singapore and Australia do not want to accept any refugees,” she said.
However, Malaysia’s strong stance against the Myanmar’s mistreatment of Rohingya does not tally with the way the new PH government handles the influx of refugees domestically.
There are more than 150,000 refugees in Malaysia, of which 100,000 are Rohingya refugees. Malaysia has never ratified the UN refugee convention, though the PH government has made it part of its election manifesto.
S. Arutchelvan, a politician from the Socialist Party of Malaysia, said that the new government was inconsistent on its refugee policy, adding that there were 60 refugees detained in Belantik camp with no access to UNHCR. “Malaysia is under pressure from civil society to ratify the convention, yet the government is still not very ‘human rights’,” he told Arab News.
Melissa Wong, a senior policy and research analyst at the Center For Public Policy Studies, told Arab News that the current refugee policy in Malaysia was short-sighted and did not cover the basic rights and protections for refugees. Malaysia is expected to be a “transit” for refugees to other countries.
“It remains to be seen whether refugee protection will be something the PH government will work toward during their term or whether it will remain just another weightless election promise,” she said.


Gangsters attack train passengers in Hong Kong after night of violent protests

Updated 22 July 2019
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Gangsters attack train passengers in Hong Kong after night of violent protests

  • Groups of men in white were seen by eye-witnesses with poles and bamboo staves at a nearby village
  • The Hospital Authority said 45 people were injured in the Yuen Long attack
HONG KONG: Hong Kong’s opposition Democratic Party is investigating attacks by suspected triad gangsters on train passengers on Sunday, after a night of violence opened new fronts in the political crisis now deepening across the city.
Screams rang out when men, clad in white t-shirts and some armed with poles, flooded into the rural Yuen Long station and stormed a train, attacking passengers, according to footage taken by commuters and Democratic Party lawmaker Lam Cheuk-ting.
Some passengers had been at an anti-government march and the attack came after several thousand activists surrounded China’s representative office in the city, later clashing with police.
Lam, who was injured in the attack, said he was angry about a slow police response after he alerted them to the trouble, government-funded broadcaster RTHK reported.
Lam said it took police more than an hour to arrive after he alerted them and they had failed to protect the public, allowing the triads to run rampant. The party is now investigating.
“Is Hong Kong now allowing triads to do what they want, beating up people on the street with weapons?,” he asked reporters.
Police said early on Monday they had not made any arrests at the station or during a follow-up search of a nearby village but were still investigating.
Yau Nai-keung, Yuen Long assistant district police commander, told reporters that an initial police patrol had to wait for more reinforcements given a situation involving more than 100 people.
Groups of men in white were seen by eye-witnesses with poles and bamboo staves at a nearby village but Yau said police saw no weapons when they arrived.
“We can’t say you have a problem because you are dressed in white and we have to arrest you. We will treat them fairly no matter which camp they are in,” Yau said. Hong Kong has been rocked by a series of sometimes violent protests for more than two months in its most serious crisis since Britain handed the Asian financial hub back to Chinese rule in 1997.
Protesters are demanding the full withdrawal of a bill to allow people to be extradited to mainland China for trial, where the courts are controlled by the Communist Party, fearing it would undermine Hong Kong’s judicial independence.
They are also demanding independent inquiries into the use of police force against protesters.
On Sunday police fired rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse activists on the edge of Hong Kong’s glittering financial district after they had fled China’s Liaison Office.
The Chinese government has condemned the action, which saw signs and a state symbol daubed with graffiti.
The unrest in Hong Kong marks the greatest popular challenge to Chinese leader Xi Jinping since he came to power in 2012.
The Hospital Authority said 45 people were injured in the Yuen Long attack, with one in a critical condition. Some 13 people were injured after the clashes on Hong Kong island, one seriously, the authority said.
Some police had been injured in the clashes after protesters hurled bricks, smoke grenades and petrol bombs, said a police statement.