Former Asean Secretary General Dr Surin Pitsuwan on Phuket last yearPhoto by phuketwan.com/file
January 10, 2013
interceding in Burma as the Asean partners desperately try to stem
international damage from years of Asean subterfuge and inaction on the
Dr Surin Pitsuwan,
who has just retired after five years as Secretary General of the 10-nation
group, told Phuketwan today that human rights in Burma was
an issue that had to be addressed.
pushbacks were Thailand’s way of dealing with an issue that Burma and its
neighbors wanted to hide from the word.
In 2013, with satellite
images being used by activist group Human Rights Watch as evidence of the
torching of thousands of Rohingya homes in Burma’s Rakhine state, secrets are
more difficult to keep.
opting to make the perilous voyage south rather than ”die in a camp for
displaced people,” as one boatperson put it.
Now that their
homes have been burned, the women and children are fleeing Burma with their
menfolk in a crisis generated by decades of resentment that has openly festered
lately into bitter hatred.
The pushbacks were
adopted by Thailand as an answer after the 2007-2008 ”sailing season” saw
nearly 5000 Rohingya land in Thailand.
Halfway through the
2012-2013 ”sailing season,” more than 10,000 Rohingya have voyaged past
Thailand and thousands more are planning to flee the same way.
Since Phuketwan revealed on January 1 that women and
children are now fleeing in the boats, a policy swing appears to be underway in
The prospect of
women and children being at sea for weeks in open boats alarmed the Thai Navy
personnel and local police who intercepted the boatload of families off Phuket.
It can be no
coincidence that last night’s raid took place on an illicit Thai-Malaysia
border camp for the first time, clearly revealing that children and women are
now falling into the hands of the people traffickers.
We sincerely hope
that for Asean and the people smugglers, the days of secrecy and profit are at
With the illegal
trade now on overload, alternatives have to be found, and urgently. There is no
doubt that the only permanent solution has to come from inside Burma.
acknowledged this today when he said that he believed steps had to be taken
swiftly to recognise Rohingya families who had been living in Burma for
just-retired diplomat, he said that the process of recognition required time.
But with more women
and children taking to the Rohingya boats each day, time is running short.
Burma must act.