Friday, February 10, 2012

Myanmar reforms trigger calls for Malaysia's refugee ratification

Malaysia's human rights activists say that Malaysia must now ratify the 1951 UN Refugee Convention as the military-junta led Myanmar is now opening up its democratic space and engaging in a dialogue with its most famous opposition icon, Aung San Suu Kyi.


The asylum seekers from Myanmar form the largest group of refugees in Malaysia.According to the official statistics, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees or UNHCR recorded 61,412 Myanmar refugees out of the total 66,137 in 2010.

Pointing out that the Malaysian government had raised concerns that ratifying the Convention would trigger an influx of refugees, human rights workers say that the reforms in Myanmar signals the possibility of refugees returning home.

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They also accuse Malaysia of not wanting to shoulder the responsibility of abiding by an international regulation.

Malaysia recently got into trouble for entering into an agreement with Australia to ship 800 refugees from Australia to Malaysia and resettle 4000 refugees from Malaysia over five years.

The swap plan fell through due to strong protests from human rights workers and lawyers in both countries who alleged Malaysia does not meet the human rights standards stipulated in Australian law.

Malaysian government leaders meanwhile say that the refugees in Malaysia are treated well. Malaysia is also yet to ratify the UN Convention against Torture.

Political observers in the country say that the treatment of refugees would be a sticking point for the government during the general election which is expected to be called by June this year. And meanwhile human rights activists say they would continue lobbying the government to ratify the 1951 UN Refugee Convention to allow the refugees to have a legal status in the country.