Indonesia Monitoring Rohingya Situation

By Jakarta Globe 31 July 2012

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said his government is monitoring closely the sectarian violence beleaguering the Rohingya Muslim minority group in Burma, as concerns over the matter grow across the Muslim-majority archipelago.

“Indonesia has been monitoring the issue. In fact in 2010, Indonesia sent delegates to Bangladesh and Myanmar to find the root cause of the problem,” Marty told reporters on Monday.

“Our stance is clear: we refuse and are against the discriminatory treatment of anyone anywhere. We cannot tolerate this and we are asking the Myanmar government to manage this issue as Myanmar moves forward toward democratization.”

Marty said Indonesia will bring the Rohingya issue to the Islamic Cooperation Organization summit in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, on Aug. 14 and 15.

Amnesty International has reported that hundreds of Rohingyas have been killed, raped, beaten and arbitrarily arrested since Burma declared a state of emergency in the northern Arakan (Rakhine) State, on the border with Bangladesh.

Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi last week called for laws to protect the rights of the country’s ethnic minorities in her inaugural address to the country’s Parliament, although her words did not mention the Rohingyas who are not officially recognized as one of the nation’s 135 ethnic groups.

The ongoing violence has driven Rohingyas from their homes in Burma’s northern and western states, and they have being among asylum-seekers and refugees found in neighboring Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia.

Association of Southeast Asian Nations secretary general Surin Pitsuwan said last week that the grouping was seeking an explanation from member state Burma about the recent ethnic violence.

The explanation, he said, would be given at the United Nations headquarters in New York in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

The Indonesian Foreign Ministry had listed a total of 270 Rohingya asylum seekers in Indonesia, while another 124 had been granted refugee status by the UNHCR.

But the figure could be just the tip of iceberg with hundreds more entering the country illegally, eyeing Australia as their final destination.

Prosperous Justice Party lawmaker Almuzzammil Yusuf said the Indonesian Parliament should conduct its own diplomacy by sending lawmakers to meet their counterparts in Myanmar. “The delegates will monitor and lobby the Myanmar parliament to put pressure on its government to stop ongoing conflict,” he said.

Almuzzammil said he had talked about the proposal to the House of Representatives Inter-Parliamentary Agency and House Commission I, which oversees foreign affairs.