28 May 2015
The Rohingya refugee crisis is a test of Malaysia’s chairmanship of ASEAN. Kuala Lumpur’s response is an attempt to balance its foreign policy commitment to ASEAN and allay domestic concerns over the Rohingya humanitarian problem.
The Rohingya refugee crisis presents a test of Malaysia’s chairmanship of ASEAN. The most recent agreement by Malaysia and Indonesia to provide temporary shelter for the refugees, following an emergency meeting on 20 May 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, was a diplomatic breakthrough. It reflected Malaysia’s delicate efforts to maintain its regional commitment to ASEAN while allaying domestic concerns about illegal immigrants in Malaysia.
Over the past three weeks, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand were turning away ships carrying mostly Muslim Rohingya refugees who were fleeing from Myanmar due to religious and ethnic persecutions in the Rakhine state of Myanmar. Estimates show that there could be over 6,000 people who are still stranded in the open seas. Indeed, the plight of the Rohingya people stranded in Malaysian seas has drawn an international outcry. The United Nations’ human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, criticised Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand for turning away the vessels while the European Union has urged Myanmar to end the persecution of its Rohingya minority.
… David Han Guo Xiong is a Research Analyst with the Malaysia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
IDSS / Online
Last updated on 18/11/2015