Indonesia, Myanmar in talks on Rohingya boat people’s fate

March 16th, 2009 - 9:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Jakarta, March 16 (DPA) Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono Monday met Myanmar’s Prime Minister General Thein Sein for talks on various issues, including the issue of the so-called Rohingya boat people, officials said.
Thein Sein was quoted as saying that his country was prepared to receive the Rohingya boat people on condition that they can prove they were Myanmarese, because some of them came from Bangladesh.

Indonesia’s Yudhoyono stressed that the issue of the Rohingya boat people should be tackled together with the involvement of the international organisations, including the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Hundreds of people from a Muslim minority in Myanmar were found adrift in dilapidated boats with little food and water off the coast of an Indonesian island earlier this year.

“There were several people from Myanmar. Until this stage just one person was able to prove to have links to the identity or the inhabitants from Myanmar,” Indonesian presidential spokesman Dino Patti Djalal said, adding that the identification process was continuing with the involvement of the UNHCR and IOM.

“The UNHCR will go to Myanmar in the near future as part of the identification process,” the spokesman said.

Some of the boat people, who claimed persecution in Myanmar, were rescued by the Indonesian Navy off the coast of Aceh, where they told officials they were rounded up and beaten by Thai military personnel.

The plight of the boat people and efforts to assist, are to be presented before the Bali Process in April, involving the origin nation, the transit nation and the destination country, Djalal said.

The Bali Process, created in 2002, brings participants together to work on practical measures to help combat people smuggling, human trafficking and related transnational crimes in the region.

The Rohingya, a Muslim minority group from northern Arakan State in Myanmar, have been denied citizenship by Myanmar’s ruling junta who claim they are migrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has also denied the Rohingya citizenship, leaving the minority group stateless, homeless and without work. Thousands of Rohingya are working illegally in Thailand and as migrant labourers in Malaysia.

During the meeting, the Myanmar leader also explain on latest development of the so-called road map to democracy in Myanmar, which he claims to have entered the final stage with elections scheduled in 2010, Djalal said.

The Indonesian president stressed that “it is time for Myanmar to prove to ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and the world that road map to democracy could proceed,” Djalal said, adding that the most important is that the process of credible, transparent, fair and inclusive.

Yudhoyono also stressed on the need for the Myanmar regime to release the political detainees, Djalal said, without mentioning opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

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