The Rohingya: After 30 years, we need to be more human



Malaysia, let’s be more human
By Zan Azlee

The fact of the matter is that a majority of Malaysians have a lackadaisical attitude when it comes to people of different ethnicities.

This is particular so when the different ethnic group is of a people they consider lesser or beneath them. And there are many who Malaysians think are beneath them.

Take for example the different legal migrants who come to Malaysia to look for a decent living, like the Nepalese, Bangladeshis and even the Indonesians.

We look at them with disgust as if they are lowly servants or labourers (and even if they are, they are still people and it gives us no right to treat them that way).

Don’t deny it: we all know how we look at these migrants. It’s totally different than how we look at migrants who are of Caucasian or even Arabic descent.

I remember the incident of the capsized barge in Banting in June 2014. It was carrying 97 illegal Indonesian immigrants back home. Around 30 drowned.

When the news broke, before we knew they were Indonesians, social media was busy spreading the headlines and news all over different networks.

Then when information surfaced that it was a boat full of illegal Indonesian immigrants, the chatter stopped. I feel I can assume it is because they thought “Oh, it’s just Indonesians”.

This was the same when a month after that, another boat carrying about 80 Indonesians, who were also illegals, capsized off the coast of Pontian.

And this week we saw almost 2,000 Rohingya who were fleeing their home in the state of Rakhine, Myanmar, abandoned at sea by smugglers.

Some arrived in Aceh, Indonesia, while a majority arrived in Langkawi, Malaysia. Both countries have refused to allow them refuge.

After multiple decades, almost as long as I have been alive, the Rohingya problem in the Southeast Asian region does not look like it will ever be solved.

Because the problem has been around for so long, most of Malaysians are familiar that the country does not accept refugees.

Many are also familiar that there are tens of thousands of them in the country already illegally either registered with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) or not.

I do not mean to call out the negative nature of us Malaysians, but I just think that we need to feel more compassion and empathy for our fellow human beings.

I do understand that there are a lot of issues to think about when it comes to accepting refugees into the country and proper government policies need to be in place for that.

I am not saying that we just open or gates and let them flood in today. All I’m hoping for is that we at least start talking about it and to see if we can actually help in anyway.

I am sure being the chair of Asean this year, we at least have a little bit of clout to start the discussion, if at the very least, anyway.

It has just been too long where we keep saying that we do not interfere with the matters of our neighbours. We really need to be more human.

[This article originally appeared at The Malaysian Insider]

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