The Jakarta Post
An international law professor with the University of Indonesia, Hikmahanto Juwana, has said the Indonesian government should identify a designated place to accommodate Rohingya refugees stranded off the coast of Indonesia and other neighboring Southeast Asian countries.
'Indonesia can offer one of its uninhabited islands [for Rohingya refugees], such as Galang Island, which it used to accommodate Vietnamese refugees in the past. However, both infrastructural development on the island and basic commodities for the refugees should be funded by other countries, such as Malaysia and Thailand as well as international institutions, including the UN,' Hikmahanto said as quoted by Antara in Jakarta on Wednesday.
He said the island could be used to temporarily accommodate the refugees while they underwent screening for placement in a third country.
'With the island, it can be ensured that the Rohingya migrants will not mix with local residents, including Indonesians,' Hikmahanto said.
The expert said every country affected by the Rohingya refugee issue must uphold the humanitarian principle; thus, they must help the refugees reach land. However, he further said that it did not mean that the Rohingya refugees would be automatically accepted as citizens.
Hikmahanto said Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand look at the Rohingya refugee problem as an ASEAN problem and an international issue.
'With this, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand will not be individually burdened by the 'human tsunami' from Myanmar,' he said.
According to Human Rights Watch, more than 2,000 people landed in Langkawi, Malaysia, and in Aceh, Indonesia, on May 10 after spending weeks at sea, saying they had not eaten in days and suffered serious health ailments from the cramped and unsanitary conditions on board traffickers' boats.
Hikmahanto said Myanmar needed to be urged to change its policies that were discriminative toward Rohingya Muslims and had triggered internal conflict that had led to the massive influx of Rohingya refugees in other Southeast Asian countries.
'The UN through its refugee agency [UNHCR] must play an active role in dealing with Rohingya refugees and not consider it the sole responsibility of countries currently temporarily accommodating the Rohingya migrants,' he said. (ebf) (++++)