By RON CORBEN
February 20, 2013
Australia will boost aid by $2.5 million to Myanmar’s (Burma’s) displaced ethnic communities, but has ruled out an “open door” policy to ethnic Muslim Rohingya seeking asylum in Australia after fleeing sectarian violence.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr, after meeting Thai counterpart Surapong Tovichakchaikul, said Australia ruled out allowing the Rohingya to be part of its resettlement policy after advice by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“We don’t want to give the impression that for Rohingya, (those) desperate people (who) come to Thailand, they have a route to Australia because the settlement, the settlement of this displacement lies in changing policies to (give) effect to changed policies within Rakhine province,” Senator Carr told reporters in Bangkok.
Up to 2000 Rohingya are living in camps in Thailand after fleeing violence between Muslim and Buddhist communities in the Myanmarese state of Rakhine last year.
The violence left up to 200 dead, thousands injured and hundreds of homes and shops torched in arson attacks.
Human rights groups say up to 19,000 people – mostly Rohingya have fled in unsafe boats from Myanmar and nearby Bangladesh. Hundreds have drowned, including women and children.
Senator Carr said after talks on Thursday with the Thai foreign minister the two countries agreed the settlement of the Rohingya should be within Rakhine state.
“Others can’t resolve it for them. It needs to be a humanitarian settlement within Rakhine that addresses the question of their citizenship status and sees them resettled and integrated into the economy,” he said.
Australia would also be providing $750,000 to support access to clean water and sanitation in eastern Kachin state, where bitter fighting between Myanmar’s army and Kachin fighters has left up to 70,000 people displaced.
In addition it would provide $500,000 to begin land mine clearance in southeast Myanmar.
Meanwhile, Senator Carr told AAP former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup and fled in 2008 from a two-year jail term for corruption charges, had been granted a visa to travel to Australia.
“He’s applied for, and was issued, a visa in early 2012.
He hasn’t visited Australia since the visa was issued,” he said.
Mr Thaksin, whose younger sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, isThailand’s prime minister, was previously on a visa blacklist.