Some people might be aware of the humanitarian crisis going on in the Southeast Asian region. We have a boat migrant disaster at our doorsteps which was about to turn into a tragedy of massive scale. For those in the dark, I’m referring to the Rohinya and Bangladeshi migrants who are leaving Myanmar in the thousands by boats, hoping to go to Malaysia or Indonesia for work and a new life. The Rohinyas are one of the most persecuted minorities in the world because they are stateless, deprived of education, legal rights and have very limited or no job opportunities and even no access to adequate healthcare in Myanmar. For the Bangladeshis, they are economic migrants because of the shitty economy in their country, which is basically a basket case.
We know how the Myanmese junta treats it’s citizen, which is bad enough. So you can imagine how it treats the minorities. And worse, for a Buddhist country, some people including monks even resorted to violence against the Rohinyas, partly because these minorities are Muslims. These buddhist nationalists claimed that the Muslims breed like rabbits and will take over the country, killing the Buddhists and imposing shariah laws. So to prevent that, the Buddhists took violent action first, burning the Rohinyas’ villages and chasing them away. Out of desperation, the rohingyas sold off their valuables to pay traffickers to take them to neighboring Malaysia. The hypocrisy of the so-called religious people is nauseating.
The same applies to another predominantly buddhist country, Thailand, where government officials are suspected of involving in trafficking of Rohinyas and Bangladeshis into the country on the promise of sending them to Malaysia for jobs. The migrants were treated no better than aninals during the journey. Recent discoveries of mass graves point to terrible endings for many migrants.
Human right groups pointed to the recent crack down on land trafficking in Thailand that forced the traffickers to send the Rohinyas and Bangladeshi out into the sea. It is terrible enough on land, It was hell in the sea, as the refugees were robbed of anything they had, deprived of food and water, and were abandoned in the boats by the traffickers. It is a bleak sight seeing not just men, but women, children, some very young, and old folks cramped inside the boat in appalling conditions. A NYT journalist reported that when his team approached a refugee boat, the people cried for help and water. They alerted a nearby Thai navy ship of the refugees’ plight, and all the Thais did was to throw packets of instant noodles into the water for the refugees.
The Thais refused to take in the migrants. The Malaysian government (which by the way is a predominantly Muslim country) had initially closed an eye to the initial trickle influx of migrants looking for jobs, but when that turned into boatloads of them, they refused to allow the boats to reach shore. The Indonesians (the biggest Muslim country in the world) also refused to take in the refugees unless the boat managed to reach shore. But after a couple of days, they were considering even sending away those who succeeded.
We know that those junta and nationalist thugs of Myanmar, as well as the useless Bangladeshi government, are wholly responsible for this exodus. But the other Southeast Asian countries should have shown compassion to fellow humans. The act of forcing the refugees to stay in the boats out at sea is condemning them to die. Just because the navy ships gave them food, water and medicine do not assuage the guilt of abandonment.
Thank God the UN and outrage from international community has forced a change of heart, and now both Malaysia and Indonesia have agreed to settle the refugees in camps within the country on the condition that they are resettled within a year. The US have also agreed to help to resettle the refugees. I had wondered where was the voice of Aung San Suu Kyi in this tragedy, and even the western media also questioned her silence. It looks like the sad reality is principles can be thrown aside for other interests.
Ironically, the western countries, often criticized for discrimination against Muslims, are also the ones bringing the plight of the Muslim Rohinyas to the limelight. I don’t see any Muslim countries or organizations fighting for their cause. This goes to show all those talks of fighting for Muslim rights are in reality are for purposes that serve their own interests.
A few days ago, I was watching the local news on TV when there was a segment featuring a musical depicting one tumultuous event of Singapore history: the Hock Lee Bus strike that turned into a deadly riot, and how it affected one family. The musical is called Singapura. (Singapura is the Malay name of Singapore.) When I first heard the name of the musical, I presumed it was to commemorate SG 50 (the 50th anniversary of our independence which is this year). The news segment showed interviews with the composer, the director and a cast member, and it started to get more and more ludicrous.
The reason? A musical about Singapore history with the country’s name as its title, but written and directed by foreigners and it looks like more than half the cast are foreigners. I think the interviewed cast member realized how ridiculous it sounds and so tried defending the situation by comparing the musical to Miss Saigon which was played by Filipinos. My dear, there is a significant difference between that and this Singapura musical. Miss Saigon is a tragi- love story which happens to set during the Vietnam War period, it’s not about the war.
For this musical, the members had to visit the library to do research on this particular history, learn how a Chinese man would speak and learn to speak the local colloquial English, Singlish. All because they are mostly foreigners. Now, would the French engaged an Indian composer to write a musical about the French Revolution, and a Chinese director to direct it, and bring on board a mostly American cast? Do we not have theatre talent in Singapore? Or is it a case of hiring cheaper foreigners?