New York-based Human Rights Watch said on Friday that more Rohingya refugees were expected to arrive in Indonesia over the next few months as the situation worsens in Myanmar.
“The situation in Arakan is not getting any better, it’s getting any worse,” Phil Robertson, deputy director of HRW’s Asia division, said at the University of Indonesia in Depok on Friday, referring to the Myanmar state now known as Rakhine. “The violence has ended but the tension is still very high — violence can break out again anytime.
“If the situation doesn’t change in Arakan, in the next few months, boats of Rohingyas will come. Probably from October to March, there will be a big number of boats.”
Robertson was presenting the latest HRW study on the situation of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. The study involved interviews with 57 Rohingyas and Buddhists in Rakhine, where bloody violence erupted in June and killed at least 78 people from both sides.
“Both sides were responsible, both were wrong, and both have committed violence, but Arakan was supported by the local police force, immigration officers and customs,” Robertson said.
“Both sides told HRW that the government failed to protect them — the government could have stopped this.”
Robertson added that the Indonesian government had a responsibility to accept Rohingya refugees, providing temporary refugee camps and assistance.
He also took the opportunity to remind the government that it should not apply a double standard, urging it to protect local minority groups such as the Ahmadiyah from attacks by hard-liners.
The government, he said, should pressure the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to speak to the Myanmar government.
Robertson said the Rohingya issue had been a “critical test case” for Myanmar’s democracy, and that Myanmar’s government had failed.
He also criticized Myanmar pro-democracy leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi for failing to take a stronger stand on the issue.
“Aung San Suu Kyi has missed many opportunities to say something. It’s unclear what she’s going to do, this is unpopular policy,” Robertson said.
He also blamed authorities in Bangladesh.
“The Bangladesh government is also in denial,” he said. “The prime minister has repeatedly claimed that Bangladesh did not force Rohingyas to flee back to Arakan state, but the truth is that they have been pushed back in the sea. The OIC [Organization of the Islamic Conference] must exert strong pressure on the government of Bangladesh to give them [the Rohingyas] temporary protection.
“Bangladesh said they have too many people, not enough money. It’s a lame excuse — they rejected donor’s money worth at least $33 million.”
About 60,000 people, mostly Rohingya Muslims, were displaced by the violence in Rakhine, and HRW earlier said Myanmar security forces opened fire on Rohingyas, committed rape and stood by as mobs attacked each other.
Myanmar’s government considers the estimated 800,000 Rohingyas in the country to be foreigners, while many citizens see them as illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh and view them with hostility.
Decades of discrimination have left Rohingyas stateless, and they are viewed by the United Nations as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities.