Western Indonesian community housing Rohingya boat people launches petition demanding president cut all ties.
By Ainur Romah
JAKARTA – An Indonesian community deeply affected by the Southeast Asian boat people crisis has petitioned the government to take more action in solving the problems faced by Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya community.
At a press conference to launch its plea Monday, the Coalition for Caring for Rohingya urged the government to act decisively against Myanmar’s government, which it said had played a key role in the humanitarian crisis faced by Muslim ethnic group today.
“This is not a sectarian conflict, and not a horizontal conflict… this happened because of strong support from the Myanmar government on some violent actions such as murder, slaughter, and destruction,” Coalition Chairman Adnin Armas told reporters.
The group is a made up from several Aceh communities, where 1062 Rohingya have been living in four temporary shelters since the boat people crisis erupted almost two months ago.
On May 1, a people trafficking camp was discovered on Thailand’s border with Malaysia, which lead to authorities clamping down on people smuggling in the country.
Subsequently, many smugglers left their victims on boats at sea, or dumped them on Malaysian or Indonesian shores.
On Monday, Armas claimed that a major factor in the problems faced by Rohingya today is the “Oppression” that has been going on in Myanmar since the 1950s.
“The Myanmar government has pursued a program of systematic genocide, calling the Rohingya illegal migrants, a threat to national security, a virus, [land] grabbers, and a threat to Buddhist culture,” he said.
It’s an oppression that has been going on since the 1950s, he added, sourcing a Pacific Rim Law and Policy Journal article titled The Slow-Burning Genocide of Myanmar’s Rohingya by Buddhist academic Maung Zarni as proof.
The Coalition’s petition underlines four demands.
First off, it wants President Joko Widodo to reconsider Indonesia’s relations with Myanmar. Secondly, it demands Indonesian businessmen and state companies suspend investments in the country.
“Thirdly, we demanded Myanmar’s ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] membership be revoked, and then all Myanmar officials who want to visit Indonesia should be blacklisted,” added Armas.
Meanwhile, on the streets of Banda Aceh — where the Rohingya have been embraced — volunteers continued to collected signatures Monday to support the petition.
Many, however, have more local concerns.
“We want President Joko Widodo to accommodate Rohingya in Aceh until all their problems with their country are finished,” said Fajri, a volunteer tasked with collecting signatures, told Anadolu Agency.
Indonesia – along with Malaysia – has said it will shelter the boat people for one year, but then the international community most find homes for them elsewhere.
“And we hope that Myanmar authorities immediately provide the status of their citizenship,” he said.
Myanmar refuses to grant Rohingya citizenship and, as a result, the vast majority of the group’s members have no legal documentation, effectively making them stateless.
Armas said the petition has been distributed to the public, and will be posted to the House of Representatives along with President Jokowi on Tuesday.