Too much at stake in Myanmar for international complacency, says UN rep

KUALA LUMPUR: The solution to the Myanmar refugee crisis lies in their home country, not anywhere else, says a United Nations special rapporteur.

"Refugees from Myanmar are here (in Malaysia) because they were forced to come here,” said Tom Andrews (pic), the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar.

"Their inability to return to their homes in Myanmar is directly linked to the military junta's human rights violations and war against the people of Myanmar.

“It is impossible to address issues related to those seeking refuge in Malaysia and other nations in the region without directly and effectively addressing the crisis inside of Myanmar," Andrews said at a press conference.

"They are refugees in the true meaning of the word, seeking safety beyond their own borders, for an uncertain future, including in Malaysia.

"What is clear to me is the extreme vulnerability of refugees in Malaysia. It is this very vulnerability that exposes them to further abuses," he added.

He cited interviews with refugees who said they had been exploited and that they feared approaching local authorities because of their lack of identification documents.

"There is also a palpable fear by everyone from Myanmar whom I spoke with of being sent to Immigration detention," he said.

However, he said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had been denied access to these facilities since 2019.

When asked his views on Home Minister Datuk Seri Hamzah Zainudin's statement that the government is planning to issue their own refugee cards, Andrews said full transparency was needed over the matter.

"What is important is that steps are taken to ensure justice and dignity for these very desperate people," he said.

Andrews also commended efforts by Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Saifuddin Abdullah on his efforts in the international stage.

"He has called on Asean to move from a policy of non-interference to, in his words, one of 'non-indifference'.

"Too much is at stake for Myanmar and its people to accept complacency and inaction by the international community.

"That is why the leadership being exhibited by Malaysia is so important," said Andrews.

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