Editorial: Rohingya refugees deserve far better

Updated 24 January 2013

Editorial: Rohingya refugees deserve far better

Refugees are a nuisance. That is a reality. Settled, stable communities around the world that find themselves hosting frightened and traumatized people, with little more than the clothes they stand up in, often with limited understanding of the language and culture of the land to which they have fled, can pose a threat to public order. They will inevitably disrupt the lives of the people in whose world they have arrived.
Yet the challenge posed by refugees cannot be ignored. They are vulnerable, pauperized and afraid. Common humanity dictates that a society which finds itself hosting people driven into exile, must do its best to take care of them. Along with their government, they must be prepared to extend shelter, concern and friendship to refugees.
And by and large, this is what has been seen. Turks, Jordanians and Lebanese have been prepared to do what they can to assist those who have fled from Assad’s monstrous repression in Syria. However there have been some deplorable exceptions to this generous behavior. One of the most unforgivable has been taking place in Thailand, with the treatment of Muslim Rohingya who have fled bloody persecution by Myanmar’s Buddhist majority. To escape the massacres, which the Burmese police and military seem to be doing little to stop, let alone investigate, thousands of Rohingya have taken to flimsy, overcrowded boats in an attempt to reach the friendlier and more welcoming shores of Malaysia
The Thai government appears to have instituted a policy of intercepting these vessels, if they stray into its territorial waters, detaining the passengers and then deporting them overland back into Burma. This is both heartless and a contravention of international law, which demands that the status of all refugees be first established clearly, before any action is taken on their future. If they prove to be economic migrants, merely seeking a better life than in their home country, then there are circumstances in which they can be repatriated. However, if they are political refugees, whose lives will be in danger if they go home, then they have to be granted asylum, or at the very least, be looked after until they can find another country that will be prepared to accept them.
Tragically, thanks to an investigation carried out by the BBC, it turns out that Thai officials are doing something even worse. They are taking Rohingya that they have detained and selling them to people traffickers. The inhuman criminals then either use their victims as slave labor or demand their families back home raise a ransom, before they will be released. Once free, these wretched individuals, without papers or money, are left to fend for themselves.
It is hard to find a word that can adequately describe the Thai officials who are prepared to stoop so low and trade in human misery, to put food on their own family tables. It cannot be that the authorities in Bangkok approve of this disgusting conduct. It has been announced that an investigation will be held into the BBC’s findings.
The Muslim world in particular will be watching to see that the Thais involved are identified and properly punished.
Meanwhile, the Rohingya who remain in Myanmar will not have been encouraged by the recent actions of the Burmese government toward another minority. The Burmese Army last week broke a truce with Kachin rebels, that was only days old. They launched a fresh assault on the Kachins, who unlike the Rohingya, have long rejected Burmese rule.
The army has resumed a drive toward the Kachin capital, Laiza.
The truce it seems, was a ruse to put the rebels off their guard and no doubt also allow the government forces to bring up fresh formations and equipment. What is significant here is that the Burmese government has been prepared to cast aside an agreement, only days after the ink of their own signature was dry. This bodes badly for all the assurances that have been given, both to the international community and the Rohingya people themselves, that the government intends to clamp down on Buddhist attacks and persecution and ensure that the Rohingya are protected and treated with respect.
Myanmar is currently enjoying the sight of international businesses falling over themselves to try and get back into the country, now that the military is apparently withdrawing from politics and marching back to the barracks where they belong. Business of course, generally follows the money, not the morality. But maybe it is time for the Burmese to be given a warning that their international political rehabilitation is not yet a done deal.


Editorial: Iran must not go unpunished

Updated 16 May 2019

Editorial: Iran must not go unpunished

  • Arab News argues that while war is always a last resort, an international response is a must to curb Iranian meddling
  • US strikes worked well when Assad used chemical weapons against his people

The attacks on Tuesday by armed drones on Saudi oil-pumping stations, and two days beforehand on oil tankers off the coast of Fujairah in the UAE, represent a serious escalation on the part of Iran and its proxies, should the initial conclusions of an international investigation prove to be accurate. 

Riyadh has constantly warned world leaders of the dangers that Iran poses, not only to Saudi Arabia and the region, but also to the entire world. This is something former President Obama did not realize until the Iran-backed Houthis attacked the US Navy three times in late 2016. The recent attacks on oil tankers and oil pipelines were aimed at subverting the world economy by hitting directly at the lifeline of today’s world of commerce. Tehran should not get away with any more intimidation, or be allowed to threaten global stability. 

It was in 2008 that the late King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz called upon the US to “cut off the head of the snake,” in reference to the malign activities of Iran. Nearly a decade later, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman referred to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as the “new Hitler of the Middle East.” We are in 2019 and Iran continues to wreak havoc in the region, both directly and through its well armed proxies. Crown Prince Mohammed was therefore clearly correct when he argued that appeasement does not work with the Iranian regime, just as it did not work with Hitler. The next logical step — in this newspaper’s view — should be surgical strikes. The US has set a precedent, and it had a telling effect: The Trump strikes on Syria when the Assad regime used Sarin gas against its people.

We argue this because it is clear that sanctions are not sending the right message. If the Iranian regime were not too used to getting away with their crimes, they would have taken up the offer from President Trump to get on the phone and call him in order to reach a deal that would be in the best interests of the Iranian people themselves. As the two recent attacks indicate, the Iranians insist on disrupting the flow of energy around the world, putting the lives of babies in incubators at risk, threatening hospitals and airports, attacking civilian ships and putting innocent lives in danger. As the case always is with the Iranian leadership, they bury their heads in the sand and pretend that they have done nothing. Nevertheless, investigations indicate that they were behind the attack on our brothers in the UAE while their Houthi militias targeted the Saudi pipelines.

Our point of view is that they must be hit hard. They need to be shown that the circumstances are now different. We call for a decisive, punitive reaction to what happened so that Iran knows that every single move they make will have consequences. The time has come for Iran not only to curb its nuclear weapon ambitions — again in the world’s interest — but also for the world to ensure that they do not have the means to support their terror networks across the region. 

We respect the wise and calm approach of politicians and diplomats calling for investigations to be completed and all other options to be exhausted before heading to war. In the considered view of this newspaper, there has to be deterrent and punitive action in order for Iran to know that no sinister act will go unpunished; that action, in our opinion, should be a calculated surgical strike.