News / Asia

UN Asks Asian States to Accept Burma Refugees

Burmeese displaced by  recent violence carry their belongings as they arrive by boats to Thaechaung refugee camp, outside of Sittwe (formerly Akyab), the capital of Rakhine State, October 28, 2012.
Burmeese displaced by recent violence carry their belongings as they arrive by boats to Thaechaung refugee camp, outside of Sittwe (formerly Akyab), the capital of Rakhine State, October 28, 2012.
Lisa Schlein
The U.N. refugee agency is calling on countries in Southeast Asia to open their borders to people fleeing insecurity and violence in Burma. The UNHCR said it is seriously concerned by the recent drowning of Rohingya Muslims who fled by boat from Burma’s Rakhine state in search of a safe haven.

In the last two weeks, two boats reportedly sank in the Bay of Bengal with an estimated 240 people aboard. The U.N. refugee agency said Rohingyas from Burma’s Rakhine state were among them.  

UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming saida Bangladeshi naval patrol and fishermen reportedly rescued 40 people from the sinking vessels. “People saw bodies floating in the water, so that does lead us to believe that the fate of those remaining 200 is not good," said Fleming.

"These two incidents mark an alarming start to the traditional sailing season … boating season in the Bay of Bengal, when a mix of asylum seekers and irregular migrants risk their lives on fishing boats in the hope of seeking safety and a better life in Southeast Asia,” she added.  

An estimated 7,000-8,000 people left Burma via the Bay of Bengal during the previous sailing season from October 2011 to March 2012. The UNHCR said it fears many more could follow in the coming weeks because of escalating tension between the Buddhist-majority Rakhine and minority Muslim Rohingyas in Rakhine State.

Inter-communal violence broke out in June. This was exacerbated in October by renewed ethnic fighting, which killed dozens of people, destroyed thousands of homes and displaced more than 110,000 people.

Fleming said the UNHCR fears that many Rohingyas, driven by desperation, hopelessness and fear, could risk their lives by crossing the Bay of Bengal in un-seaworthy craft.

“UNHCR is urging the government of Myanmar to take urgent action to address some of the main, what we call, push-factors - the factors that are driving people [to flee]," Fleming said.

"These issues are also connected with the problem of citizenship and statelessness in relation to the Rohingyas. … There is a fragile calm that has returned, but tensions remain very high and there is lots of fear that the violence could explode again,”  she added.

The Muslim Rohingyas have lived in Burma for generations, but have never been granted citizenship. They remain stateless and deprived of all rights and benefits available to Burmese citizens.

UNHCR’s Fleming calls this situation unsustainable. Burma is in the world’s spotlight right now, she says, and with the advent of a new government and the engagement of Nobel laureate Aung San Su Kyi, there is now a sense of hope that this long-standing issue could finally be resolved.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid