Indonesian President to Discuss Violence against Rohingya on Burma Visit

By Jakarta Globe 23 April 2013

Persecution of the Rohingya ethnic group in Burma is expected to be raised by Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono during his visit to the country on Wednesday.

“Indonesia hopes the Myanmar [Burma] government will handle the Rohingya issue wisely and fairly,” Yudhoyono said at a Jakarta airport on Monday ahead of his departure to Singapore. “We want to continue helping to reach a positive outcome.”

Aleksius Jemadu, the dean of Pelita Harapan University’s School of Social and Political Sciences, said Yudhoyono’s leadership on the issue was essential.

“Indonesia has been seen as a leader at the regional level and leaders need to take action to solve problems,” he told the Jakarta Globe.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa has also vowed to raise the topic when he meets his Burmese counterpart at an Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Brunei later this week.

“We urge the Myanmar government to quickly resolve this problem and prevent further conflicts from erupting, so that all the people of Myanmar can live in an atmosphere of peace,” he said.

He cited a case earlier this month in which a mob of Rohingya migrants, incensed at the ongoing violence in their home country, attacked and killed eight Buddhists from Burma at an immigration detention center in North Sumatra, citing it as a case of the problem spilling over beyond Burma’s borders.

Ali Akbar Tanjung, an activist with the Human Rights Working Group, said the influx of Rohingya refugees fleeing fighting in Burma, among other immigrants, had put a strain on Indonesia’s immigration system and highlighted the dearth of legislation on how to deal with refugees.

He argued that a law specifically addressing this issue would improve and standardize the handling of immigrants, and shift the sole burden of responsibility from the Justice and Human Rights Ministry’s directorate general of immigration.

He also emphasized the need for destination countries such as Australia and those in Western Europe to take immigrants already granted refugee status but for whom the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had still not found a willing host country.

“Our position as a transit country doesn’t allow us to sit still and do nothing,” Ali said. “We’re not a destination country. “That’s why we need to improve communications with the countries that are.”

Yudhoyono is scheduled to remain in Singapore for today, and then head to Burma on Wednesday and Brunei on Thursday.