“Minority Existence in The Back of Andaman Sea: Who is Responsible ?”

Raka Nur Wijayanto

-Kajian Strategis Jama’ah Shalahuddin UGM 1436 H/2015 M-

“The United Nations has long characterized the Rohingya Muslims as one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. By way of background, anti-Rohingya and anti-Muslim sentiment has long tainted the state’s political and social spheres.

More recently, escalating violence has not only exasperated the humanitarian crises confronting the Rohingya Muslims, but it also threatens to undermine the Burmese transition from one-party military rule to democratic governance.”

(Abdelkader. Engy, ‘The Rohingya Muslims in Burma: Past, Present, and Future’, Oregon Review of International Law, Vol. 15, Number 3, Fall 2013, p. 394)

The Misery of Rohingyas

The emergence of a phenomenon of asylum seekers arrival in the island around western Indonesia and western Malaysia still clearly recorded a while ago. Many asylum seekers who comes to these place are believed to be Rohingyas, the Muslim minority ethnic in Burma. This event become a new thing in the ASEAN region where the focus of political elites previously too concerned about the presence of China’s power in the South China Sea. The presence of China is considered as a problem with the urgency level that is higher than the ethnic problem of the Rohingya. In fact, the problem of the Rohingya people is appear earlier than the conflict with China. On the other side, the issue of Rohingya occure among ASEAN internal actors without the presence of outside actors. From this, we can conclude that the Rohingya issue is an internal problem of ASEAN which means that the problem shall be completed first and immediately .

In his article, Engy explained that the suffering who hit the Rohingya minority communities was an issue that is deliberately created by the Burma’s government and its majority people in that country. Human rights violations committed by the individual and communal against Rohingya minority has been mostly done by the government and local communities. That suffering could not be separated from security destabilization process since 1948 with the presence of inter-ethnic conflict and the imposition of militaristic-authoritarian system on the government in 1962 (Human Rights Watch, 2012).

Human Rights Watch noted that many concrete evidence of the brutal violations addressed to the Rohingya people. Murdered, raped, until forced evictions are often carried out by the government and the majority community. Human right restrictions especially in the economic and political aspects become effective suppressant that makes them can’t do anything. On the one side, they just have a choice to change their identity according to the identity of the majority. However, rejection of the identity alteration has an impact on their expulsion from their homes. In the end, many of them choose to became asylum seekers, with an estimated to 8000 people, and traded their lives with Andaman Sea towards a better life (Kompas, 2015: 8).

Find The Responsible Stakeholders

Rohingya minority discrimination is not a negligible issue given by the Burmese government as a legitimate government. Rohingya regarded as illegal Bangladeshi immigrants who have been trying to annex the land of Burma. When that regard is true, ASEAN countries and Bangladesh should respond firmly. Warnings seriously to Burmese government can be done because the Rohingya conflict has been internationalized. Gave the justification unilaterally to the government of Bangladesh for any errors with population administration management, in this case is being associated with the Rohingya people, clearly needs to be clarified. Polemics on Rohingya conflict is no longer an internal problem in Burma, but has crossed the line at least with Bangladesh. However, Bangladesh could not too be expected after seeing the internal condition of that country. Problems in the economy became the reason, considering among ‘boat people’ who accompany Rohingya asylum seekers sailed to the sea for the sake of a better economy came from Bangladesh. Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia are the key state actors that will be expected to solve this problem. All of that three states, in terms of economics and politics, is considered to be a potential destination of the Rohingya people. They have power that is superior when dealing directly with Burmese government. Nevertheless, the settlement occur because Burmese government still relatively closed in international relations.

In view of the broader scope, ASEAN and the UN are few examples of transnational institutions which has a major role in stopping the suffering of the Rohingya people. The Equal Rights Trust analyzed that the responsibility for the Rohingya refugees are not merely directed at the state of refugees, but also to the international community in general. The agreement contained in the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration in 2012 implicitly shows that ASEAN is one of the actors who should be responsible in dealing with the Rohingya. ASEAN Human Rights Declaration is approved by the head of state / government of ASEAN and seeking to promote and protect human rights at the regional level. Although it is not have a binding effect, the agreement becomes an affirmation of ASEAN countries that human rights are important in the life of those state. Supposedly, ASEAN countries can use the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration as the main weapon to force the Burmese to solve Rohingya problems. At the international level, United Nations (UN) as the highest international bodies and most representative international organizations could not stay in their chair and look genocide from there. The 1951 Vienna Convention could be a reference to the United Nations, in this case represented by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which has an important role in handling the case of Rohingya refugees. The UN can also move by forcing Burmese government to open its borders in order to provide assistance in the form of medicines and food to the Rohingyas who are discriminated by majority ethnic. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that it has not been effectively carried out, by the view of the Burmese government border closure and their stubbornness in seeing the case of the Rohingya.

How About Moslem?

Rohingya conflict is a multidimensional conflict. In addition to vertical conflict between the government and the people of Burma, the Rohingya conflict is also a horizontal conflict between the Buddhist community as an ethnic majority and the Islamic community of the identity of the Rohingya. In 2015, it was still direct discrimination against Moslem in some parts of the world where they are a minority. The hidden agenda between the government and the majority ethnic to get rid the Rohingya tended constitute by the identity difference.

Moslem in other countries need to pay special attention to the problems that befall our brother. Attention is given not only limited attention in the surface. Moreover, we should be able to positioning ourselves as agent of change to provide the best solution in resolving the conflict. The best way that can be taken to help the Rohingya people is to seek ownership of Burmese citizenship status. This can be done by us in the ranks of the stakeholders. Protest and pressure on the state level is needed to create a more opening government in Burma. In other policy areas, acceptance of boat people stranded around the Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam province is something that should be done by the government. For Islamic society which does not have the authority, humanitarian aid mobilization become one of the alternative solutions which could ease the burden the Rohingya community. Moral and material aid into the main buffer kink the Rohingya community in discriminatory measures taken by the government and the majority of the people of Burma.

“And prepare against them whatever you are able of power and of steeds of war by which you may terrify the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them whom you do not know [but] whom Allah knows. And whatever you spend in the cause of Allah will be fully repaid to you, and you will not be wronged.” (QS Al-Anfal:60)

“You will not find a people who believe in Allah and the Last Day having affection for those who oppose Allah and His Messenger, even if they were their fathers or their sons or their brothers or their kindred. Those – He has decreed within their hearts faith and supported them with spirit from Him. And We will admit them to gardens beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide eternally. Allah is pleased with them, and they are pleased with Him – those are the party of Allah . Unquestionably, the party of Allah – they are the successful.

(QS Al Mujadalah:22)


Abdelkader. Engy, ‘The Rohingya Muslims in Burma: Past, Present, and Future’, Oregon Review of International Law, Vol. 15, Number 3, Fall 2013

Anonym, ‘The Government Could Have Stopped This’, Human Rights Watch (online), August 1, 2012, <http://www.hrw.org/reports/2012/08/01/government-could-have-stopped>, accessed May 19, 2015

Kompas, edisi 18 Mei 2015

The Equal Rights Trust and Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University, The Human Rights of Stateless Rohingya in Thailand, The Equal Rights Trust, London, February 2014

Image source: thecitizen.in

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