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Saudis Back Rohingya Aid: Phuket May Be Spared Armada of Boatpeople

Sunday, August 12, 2012
PHUKET: Saudi Arabia is to give $50 million to help the oppressed Rohingya of Burma after sectarian violence left scores dead and thousands burned from their homes.

The assistance may dissuade many from risking their lives in perilous voyages south, past Phuket.

Burma, also known as Myanmar, agreed to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation channeling aid to the Rohingya after a delegation from the pan-Islamic body met President Thein Sein in Yangon, Burma's old capital, on Friday.

The delegation assured President Thein Sein that Islamic humanitarian organisations were willing to provide aid to all residents of the strife-torn Rakhine state, where police and other officials have been providing help for Buddhist residents in their struggle to displace Rohingya.

News of the gift by Saudi King Abdullah was carried by the country's SPA news agency in a report that described the Rohingya as victims of ''several rights violations, including ethnic cleansing, murder, rape and forced displacement.''

Human Rights Watch, based in New York, has accused Burmese forces of opening fire on Rohingya, as well as committing rape and standing by as rival mobs attacked each other.

Rakhine state has remained under emergency rule since early June with a heavy army and police presence since the first fighting between Buddhists and Rohingya.

Although the Rohingya have lived in Burma for at least 400 years, they remain stateless. Thein Sein has suggested one solution lies in the Rohingya leaving Burma.

In recent years, thousands of men and teenage boys have taken berths on ricketty boats to try to flee Burma for Muslim-majority Malaysia, but many boats have landed prematurely on THailand's Andaman holiday coast as occupants run out of food and water.

Several boats have landed on Phuket, sometimes alongside five-star resorts, heightening the contrast between holidaying tourists and some of the poorest people on the planet.

All along Thailand's coast, the military and village volunteers have been readying for large numbers of Rohingya boatpeople travelling south between October and April, in what's known as the sailing season.

The would-be refugees will be ''helped on'' with food and water, and if necessary mechanical or medical assistance. But they will not be allowed to land in Thailand.

The Rohingya crisis has brought an outcry in Muslim countries, condemning the attitude of Buddhist-majority Burma, where outrageous racism - reminiscent of South Africa's appalling apartheid policy - has been ingrained for generations.

Large-scale protests have been mounting in Indonesia, one of Burma's partners in Asean.

Despite his hard line on the issue, Thein Sein has welcomed the aid from the OIC.

One of the leading liberal princes in the Saudi Arabian royal family, HRH Talal bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, arrived on Phuket on Saturday for a private visit. More Middle East visitors are holidaying on Phuket.

Comments

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They do make a tasty roti.

Posted by Matt on August 13, 2012 08:57

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The violence is a disgrace and Thailand promotes this by ushering on people who need help.
I think Thailand forgets its own history, when it suits it.
If they were wealthy, they would be more than welcome here, I'm sure.

Posted by Tbs on August 13, 2012 11:02


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