Fresh look needed on refugees | Bangkok Post: opinion

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Fresh look needed on refugees

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The announcement on Friday from Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul that Rohingya who have washed up on Thai shores will be sheltered for another six months should be commended. Meanwhile, negotiations with Myanmar and other countries in the region to find a permanent settlement solution will be ongoing. Realistically, however, it is unlikely that this thorny issue will be resolved in six months. Thailand must be prepared to extend the arrangement for the approximately 1,400 Rohingya estimated to be in the country. 

Predominantly Muslim members of Asean, Malaysia and Indonesia in particular, should lead the way toward a solution, and it should be a priority at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's summit in Cairo next week.

The best solution would, of course, be for the Myanmar government to take responsibility for the Rohingya by granting them citizenship and assuring them protection against mobs who see them as a threat. Currently the government is denying the Rohingya nationality because it says they originally crossed the border illegally from Bangladesh, even though many have now been in the country for generations. The stance has brought harsh rebukes from humanitarian groups as well as from governments that are anxious to endorse Myanmar's reform process. But while the violence directed at Rohingya in Rakhine state, reportedly in many instances condoned by the authorities, should be thoroughly condemned, it must also be admitted that Myanmar is not alone in taking such a position. For example, there is little chance that Thailand will grant citizenship to the tens of thousands of Myanmar nationals who have crossed the border in recent decades for political and economic reasons.

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