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DVB POLL: What to do with the Rohingya?

Boats carrying migrants off the coast of the Thai island of Koh Lipe, Thailand. (Photo: Reuters)

It’s all very clear in hindsight, but should it not have been easy to predict that the persecution and anti-Muslim riots of recent years would result in an exodus of Rohingya from Burma?

Yet no one did anything to alleviate the issues; in fact, Burma’s authorities could well be held to account for exacerbating the prejudices against the Rohingya and forcing them into fleeing the country.

More than 130,000 Rohingya people remain sheltered at IDP camps in Arakan State. This represents perhaps 15 to 20 percent of the group’s population in the country. The rest live humbly in towns such as Maungdaw and Buthidaung, but many others are confined to ghettoes in Sittwe. Altogether as a community, they reap very little.

Is this their own fault? Is it the government or society’s fault? To what extent could the Rohingyas have made a better living for their community? Have they made no strides to integrate into Burmese society?

Boat crammed with refugees, intercepted by Burmese navy some four miles from Arakanese coast, on 21 May 2015. (PHOTO: Ministry of Information)

Yet, at the same time, is this not a regional problem rather than a Burmese affair? The origin of many thousands of this recent wave of boat people is Bangladesh; the smuggling and trafficking rings most certainly exist on both sides of the Naf River.

Of the thousands who have taken to the perilous high seas, how many should be classified as ‘economic migrants’ and how many are ‘refugees fleeing persecution’?

Is it now the responsibility of Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia to take care of these people who drift into their waters? Surely migrants are headed in those directions because they believe they will be safer, have more access to work and livelihoods, and to a better life. Have the boat people been duped by unscrupulous traffickers? Or does the supply meet the demand?

What then must ASEAN do as a regional economic bloc? Indeed, does it have to do anything?

And what of the Western countries who preach human rights and continually pour shame on Burma, but who have no less stringent policies on immigrants themselves?

Or should Muslim nations step in – countries like Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Iran – to offer sanctuary to Rohingya refugees?

DVB would like to know you, our readers’, opinions. Please join in our DVB POLL and offer up your thoughts on how this crisis should be handled.

This is a touchy subject, so while we welcome your comments we insist that all contributors avoid inflammatory or uncouth language.

A few suggestions are listed below, but we expect many of you have vastly opposing ideas and solutions. Please use our comments box to add your voice to the debate.

What to do with the Rohingya?