VOLUME 28 NO. 13 | MARCH 21 - MARCH 27, 2009

Indonesia wants solution for Myanmar boat people

Last updated 3-19-09 at 9:41 a.m.

By Niniek Karmini
The Associated Press

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) ­— Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged Myanmar to find a regional solution for the crisis caused by thousands of Muslim boat people fleeing the regime for other Southeast Asian countries, a presidential spokesman said March 16.

The comments were made by Dino Pati Jalal in Jakarta after meetings between Yudhoyono and Prime Minister Gen. Thein Sein, who is on a two-day visit to the largest member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Singapore.

“The Indonesian president pressed the need for a practical solution for the problem and encouraged a regional solution,” Jalal told reporters at the Presidential Palace.

The Rohingyas — not recognized as a distinct ethnicity by Myanmar’s government which denies them full citizenship — consists of about 800,000 in that country. Hundreds of thousands have fled to Bangladesh, Malaysia, and the Middle East, and many rights groups have expressed concern that they will be abused if forced to return to Myanmar.

Earlier this year, thousands fled Myanmar by boat, and the sudden flood strained generally good relations among ASEAN members. The Indian navy said hundreds were believed to have drowned after the Thai navy pushed out to sea those who landed on Thailand’s shores.

An Indonesian Foreign Ministry official said just one of nearly 400 boat people in camps on the northwestern Aceh province had identification papers. It is also impossible to give the names of the boat people to authorities in Myanmar to verify their status because doing so may put their families at risk, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Indonesia will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the Rohingyas, who arrived in recent months in boats without food or water, until a long-term solution can be found, Jalal said. (end)


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