—There, but for the grace of God go you or I …
Photograph: Chaideer Mahyuddin/AFP/Getty Images
There have been so many images reaching our TV screens and other media outlets that choosing just one for this week’s image was difficult. My simple solution was to pick the first one I came across this morning. That it portrays the doe-eyes of a group of rescued migrant children in the fishing town of Kuala Langsa in Aceh, is not meant to tug at our heart strings. It could have been their parents, grandparents, cousins and aunties.
This is yet another crisis emanating from religious bigotry. The Rohingya are ethnic Muslims, originally from Bangladesh who had settled in Burma/Myanmar, but forced to flee by the country’s Buddhist majority. En route they have fallen prey to Thai traffickers, also Buddhist.
Where did they expect to go?
That question is irrelevant because the governments of neighbouring countries, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia have refused to take responsibility and allow them to come ashore. Those that have made it that far have been forced back out to sea, with minimal supplies, to drift as their ships run out of fuel. Meanwhile, most traffickers have made off with the ‘ransoms’ they charged these desperate people.
This past week, some one thousand have been rescued from their plight by Acehnese fishermen, and are now sheltered in local community facilities, while the local and national government ‘authorities’ dither..
The community of south-east Asian countries (ASEAN) turns a blind eye to the situation in one of its member countries, and hopes the problem will resolve itself.
Indonesia’s current narrow-minded nationalism precludes a humanitarian solution – so why not let them all die while we hold regional conferences, next week, next month …?
Note: The derivation of my lead-in quote is uncertain. For those of us who abhor religious bigotry, I prefer the thought that “there but for the accident of birth ...”