17 February 2017
Flotilla For Rohingya: A Voice to end Oppression
Food Flotilla for Myanmar (FFFM) has brought forth an important message; to end the systematic persecution and grave human rights abuse by authorities and Buddhist Nationalists against the Rohingya, according to Majlis Perundingan Pertubuhan Islam Malaysia (MAPIM), Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid.
Mohd Azmi said that the purpose of the Flotilla exceeds its purpose of providing humanitarian aid to Myanmar, but rather accentuates the need to tell the global community that Myanmar should be held accountable for their actions towards Rohingya, who now seek refuge in neighbouring Bangladesh.
“Bangladesh is currently home to more than 500,000 refugees whom seek refuge since 1991, some much earlier than that going as far back as 1982 when the status of Rohingya as citizens in Myanmar was abolished. Since an incident, which took place on the 9th of October 2016, close 700,000 refugees are seeking refuge in Teknaf, Bangladesh.
“The main message of the Flotilla initiative is for Myanmar to be mindful of the international pressure. Malaysia has taken action via the Flotilla initiative to remind Myanmar that its continuous action to oppress will ultimately contribute to the instability of South East Asia.
“If Myanmar is allowed continuous oppression, it has the potential of creating a much bigger conflict as well as the potential of becoming another humanitarian disaster.”
Mohd Azmi explained that, the Rohingya is more than just a conflict between groups wanting independence from its colonialist, but is focused upon the issue whereby citizenship is denied. The aftermath of the incident has caused the Rohingya to become a stateless minority, exposing them to systematic persecution, ethnic cleansing and genocide.
“Following this, neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan are burdened with refugees seeking shelter and protection. Will the world continue to turn a blind eye or will they take action against Myanmar by enforcing them to reinstate the Rohingya as citizens?
The Flotilla initiative has caught the attention of the world, following oppression and sanctions, making access to the Rohingya nearly impossible, has caused Malaysia to launch the Flotilla initiative. The world will then bear witness as to the extent of how Myanmar will respond to the Flotilla initiative.
Mohd Azmi questions the Myanmar government as to the reasons behind their reluctance to refusal to allow humanitarian missions be given to refugee camps in Sittwe and Maungdaw, focusing to the question of what were they hiding?
Now Bangladesh is accused by Myanmar of providing a platform onto which Rohingyan freedom fighter are able to launch a response, thus resulting in further difficulties for humanitarian aid to be distributed to refugee camps.
As it stands, only two agencies will be able to provide humanitarian assistance which is the International Organization of Migrants (IOM) and the International Red Crescent (IRC).
The Flotilla initiative however faced several difficulties whereby authorities in Bangladesh cited security issues despite welcoming the presence of the Flotilla. Following intense discussions between the secretariat and the Bangladeshi authorities, only 25 members from the Flotilla is allowed passage to the refugee camps.
“We had to oblige, as the decision depended upon the approval of Bangladesh.
Despite top leadership from both countries intervening to ease the passage of the Flotilla, in the end all humanitarian aid were given to IOM and IRC for distribution.
We concur that the Flotilla is an important step in the right direction for Malaysians and several international activists to send a message to world that issues surrounding the Rohingya should not fall on deaf ears.
The FFFM secretariat is of the opinion that the difficulties faced during distribution in Myanmar and Bangladesh does not mean that it has failed to meet its purpose.
In retrospect, the impact and the message brought forth by the Flotilla initiative has opened the eyes of the world through its massive media attention, for the world is now seeking the best possible way to help the Rohingya.