What does the Myanmar coup d’etat mean for Malaysia?
It means that not only does our Foreign Minister make the appropriate diplomatic noises but our Home Minister as well as Defence Minister are left holding the Rohingya baby.
An estimated 76,000 Rohingya children under three years old have been born in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps. Cox’s Bazar is Bangladesh’s problem.
Malaysia’s problem is that we have the world’s fourth largest Rohingya diaspora.
We are stuck with the 200,000 Rohingya forever ‘refugees’ already here in Malaysia, and can expect a lot more of them to try harder to sneak in.
As with the Bangladesh predicament, unwanted Rohingya will be staying in our country to their second and third generations, and in limbo they will remain.
BELOW: Infographics prepared in September 2019 by Turkish media Anadolu Agency; Malaysia hosts the most number of Rohingya after Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan
Door slammed shut and bolted
Last month (21 Dec 2020), Bertil Lintner wrote in Asia Times:
“None of the estimated one million Rohingyas in Bangladesh are going back to Myanmar in the foreseeable future, if at all”.
Now following the latest political developnent in Myanmar, the Rohingya are definitely not going back. Just as equally, the Burmese generals will never allow them to.
The leader of yesterday’s coup d’etat in Myanmar is Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
He is commander-in-chief of the tatmadaw (Burmese military).
Remember, it was not the civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi (ASSK) that cracked down on the Rohingya in 2017.
Instread it was the army that carried out what they called “clearing operations” but their atrocities termed by the UN as ethnic cleansing.
Today ASSK is under house arrest, her top party leaders under detention, the president elect deposed and Myanmar put under emergency rule by the tatmadaw.
Min Aung Hlaing and his generals will not be allowing the Rohingya to return to Rakhine even though the ASSK administration had agreed for Bangladesh to begin repatriating this year.
“The repatriation was already uncertain, now it has been destroyed,” a Rohingya youth leader told Anadolu Agency reacting to news of the coup.
Senior General Min Aung Hlaing views the Rohingya as Bengali aliens brought into Burma by the British.
His fellow Burmese agree that the Rohingya don’t belong in the country.
Global citizens of the UNHCR
Burma’s 1982 citizenship law drew a red line across 1823 — the long, long ago year of the first Anglo-British war.
Under its super strict nationality law created by the junta, Burma accepted as citizens only those native peoples whose forefathers had resided in Burmese territory before 1823.
Since the Rohingya migrated from Chittagong to neighbouring Arakan – the old name for Rakhine – to work as cheap labour in the British colonial economy, they do not qualify for Burmese nationality under the 1982 law.
For that matter, neither did the Indians, Chinese and Nepali. Residents in Burma of foreign descent were all equally disenfranchised by the citizenship law.
Aside from historical reasons, there are modern imperatives for Myanmar to refuse the Rohingya’s return.
Citing sources, P.K. Balachandran wrote yesterday in the South Asian Monitor:
“… China and Myanmar have agreed that vast stretches of land in Rakhine will be depopulated to enable the execution of Sino-Myanmar infrastructure projects linking a port in Rakhine with Kunming in China. More recently, Sino-Myanmar ties have included oil and gas as Myanmar pumps natural gas from the Bay of Bengal to China.”
The upshot is that Malaysia cannot deport Rohingya because Myanmar does not want them and neither does Bangladesh (speaking about those economic migrants whose point of departure was Cox’s Bazar).
To compound the dire situation, hundreds of Rohingya missing from an Indonesian refugee camp are believed to have been trafficked to Malaysia — see Al Jazeera report a few days ago, below.