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The Story of Rohingya: Stuck at Furious Sea, Strand on the land of Southeast Asia

Rhusaimah (26) didn’t know what was happening. She was at a loss as to where to go. She and her family had transported by truck for many times. However, they were not able to stay in one place.

Rhusaimah was not able to communicate for a long time during that chaos condition. However, it was admitted that she was exhausted. Her face looks haggard. The clothes she wore looked shabby, full of sand flakes from the sea.

Rhusaimah was one of the many passengers on the eighth boat that anchored on the coast of Aceh Besar on Sunday, December 10, 2023 at around 5:30 a.m. (UTC+7). Shealong with 134 other refugeesarrived, driving a wooden boat, on the beach of Blang Ulam Hamlet, Gampong Lamreh, Mesjid Raya Subdistrict, Aceh Besar, Aceh, Indonesia.

Krueng Raya (Aceh Besar) Police Chief, Ipda Rolly Yuiza Away, said that the Rohingya refugees consisted of 35 men, 65 women, 15 boys and 20 girls.

“Their position from the boat is one kilometer away. After getting off the ship, the immigrants were walking until they arrived at this place, namely Blang Ulam Hamlet,” said Ipda Rolly Yuiza Away.

Residents asked the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to immediately relocate 135 Rohingya refugees who landed in the local coastal area.

“UNHCR, which is now on site, has asked us to move them no later than this afternoon,” said Lamreh Village Secretary Asmadi Kadafi in Aceh Besar on Sunday, 10th December 2023.

Rohingya Faces Massive Rejection

The Rohingya are a Muslim ethnic minority in Myanmar. According to UNHCR, the Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for centuries. On the other hand, the majority group in Myanmar views the Rohingya as migrants whose population growth has only been in Myanmar for the last century.

In 1982, the Rohingya population was officially not recognized by the Myanmar government. Hence, the Rohingya people become stateless. What then happened to them? Social tension ensued in the community. Then the Rohingya people were persecuted.

UNHCR said there were village burnings, killings, and massive human rights violations against the Rohingya.

Therefor, the Rohingya was forced to leave Myanmar. Nowadays, more than a million people have left Myanmar since the 1990s.

Rakhine people have rich natural resources. But they are denied access to education, services and citizenship rights. (Lilianne Fan – Cultural Anthropologist & Humanitarian)

Where is the Rohingya fleeing to?

The majority of the Rohingya ethnic group fled to Cox Bazar Camp in Bangladesh. Some people are sheltered in Thailand and India, others have to choose Indonesia as their destination on the purpose of staying alive.

The Rohingya has arrived in Indonesia since 2015. The current number reaches 1,487 Rohingya refugees in Indonesia, and its number expected to grow. The locations of the Rohingya refugees are in Aceh, North Sumatra, and Riau, and some others in Sidoarjo, East Java.

Initially, the arrival of Rohingya refugees in Indonesia was welcomed, especially by the people in Aceh. However, gradually, there were a number of conditions that made the Indonesian people reject the arrival of Rohingya refugees.

The reason is that the shelters are no longer accommodate the growing number of refugees. Another reason is because there are refugees who do not adhere to norms, customs, and commit criminal acts in refugee areas.

Rohingya Issue is an ASEAN Issue

Rohingya issue is a gift for ASEAN to mediate on (Daniel Awigra – Human Rights Defender)

Adriana Elizabeth, an Asean researcher from the National Innovation Research Agency (BRIN), said it is can not be denied that cultural differences could create disagreements between local people and the refugees. As the thinking of refugees is in their survival mode, only how to save themselves. Hence, the chaos condition made the Acehnese community felt a little disturbed. However, the government has made efforts to keep prioritising the safety of Aceh people too.

“We also cannot turn a blind eye, if refugees are in front of us. Universally, Indonesia also takes responsibility. But the refugee problem is not only Indonesia’s problem, because Myanmar is a country in ASEAN. So, ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) must also take responsibility,” Adriana said on Metro TV.

“If Myanmar is unable to solve this problem, then it should be brought to ASEAN, because this is a form of regional commitment that must also be borne by every country in ASEAN,” he said.

Aceh Government to Set Up Temporary Shelters

The Acting Governor of Aceh, Achmad Marzuki, stated that he would prepare a temporary shelter for the 1,684 Rohingya refugees.

“I will hold a meeting with UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and IOM (International Organization for Migration), and follow up on the instructions of the central government that humanitarian refugees must be assisted, and immediately determine where a suitable location for shelter is,” said Achmad Marzuki, Monday night, December 11, 2023.

Achmad Marzuki admitted that he understood the unrest of the Acehnese people who expressed rejection. “I understand that the residents are restless. For example, there are public toilets in the village that have become chaotic because many people use them with an inappropriate capacity. Perhaps this is also a reason for the refugees to be transferred from their village. We will find a solution as soon as possible to deal with this problem. As we don’t have a shelter for that many people,” he stated.

Until now, nine Rohingya refugee boats have arrived in Aceh with a total of 1,684 people since November 14, 2023. The refugees arrived four batches in Pidie, two batches in Sabang, and one batch each in Bireuen, East Aceh, and Aceh Besar.

Source: Digdata | Photos: Riska Munawarah, Ayu ‘Ulya, and Digdata

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