by K Veeriah
Malaysia undoubtedly continues to a preferred country of destination for the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fleeing from the oppressive Myanmar military regime.
It cannot be disputed that our nation can only do the best it can to provide support to those seeking refuge in our country.
But when we cage people and, in the process, strip them of their self-respect and dignity just on account of their flight from suppression in their country of origin, we need to wonder whether we have lost our sense of humanity.
Millions of people have sought asylum because of upheavals arising from armed conflicts, acts of genocide, or geopolitical voyeurism.
Within Asean, we need to urgently address the predicament of the Rohingya.
For too long, Asean has functioned as a toothless collective in addressing the blatant abuses of fundamental human rights so perpetuated by the Myanmar regime against the helpless Rohingya.
From being treated as persona non grata in their country and being persecuted for their ethnicity, the plight of the Rohingya has not found a cohesive reaction from Asean nations except for ‘window dressing’ diplomatic representation.
Asean has an obligation to demand that the Myanmar regime stops its systemic persecution of the Rohingya. The regional grouping ought to also demand that, for Myanmar to reap the benefits of Asean economic partnership, it must stop its inhumane treatment of the Rohingya.
Granted, Asean adopts a policy of non-interference with the sovereignty of its member states. But it cannot stand on the sidelines and put on blinkers when fundamental human rights are outrageously trampled upon.
Asean has a choice: remain docile when confronted with the atrocities against the Rohingya or embark on a forceful cause of action against the Myanmar regime in an attempt to liberate the Rohingya from their predicament.
K Veeriah is a veteran trade unionist based in Bukit Mertajam, Penang