Myanmar’s delegate to talks in Bangkok on Southeast Asia’s migrant crisis yesterday rebuked the UN’s refugee agency for calling on the country to recognize the Rohingya minority as citizens to stem their exodus from its shores.
On “this issue of illegal migration of boat people, you cannot single out my country,” Myanmar’s delegate, Burmese Ministry of Foreign Affairs Director-General Htin Lynn, said in stern response to a UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) plea to address the root causes of the ongoing migration crisis, including the statelessness issue.
In his opening remarks to a meeting with 17 countries and other agencies, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection Volker Turk urged Myanmar to tackle the flow of Rohingya southward, where they have arrived in thousands on the shores of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
To address the root causes of the exodus “will require full assumption of responsibility by Myanmar to all its people,” he said. “Granting of citizenship is the ultimate goal.”
Myanmar denies citizenship to the majority of its 1.3 million Rohingya and does not accept them as one of its official ethnic minorities, instead calling them “Bengalis” — shorthand for foreigners from neighboring Bangladesh.
Myanmar rejects any internationalization of the issue of the status of the Muslim minority, since communal violence in 2012 between Rohingya and the Buddhist majority in western Rakhine State brought their plight to the fore.
The Myanmar delegate called Volker’s comments a “politicization” of the migrant subject, adding that “some issues” are internal.
About 3,500 starving migrants, mainly Rohingya, as well as poor Bangladeshis, have made it to shore in Southeast Asia since the start of the month, when a Thai crackdown on people smuggling disrupted a well-worn route southward from the Bay of Bengal.
Malaysia has invited the leaders of Indonesia, Thailand and Myanmar for an emergency summit on the crisis, a Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs official said yesterday.
“Malaysia is prepared to host,” said the official, who did not want to be identified. Asked when the summit was likely to be held, the official said: “It will take time to put together, and we don’t know yet.”
The official was attending the one-day intergovernmental meeting in Bangkok on the migrant crisis.
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