Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: A regional consultation among civil society groups and intergovernmental agencies on how to better protect refugees and forced migrants in the Asia-Pacific region concluded in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this week, even as more governments in the region were voting against a draft United Nations General Assembly resolution on human rights situations in Burma in New York on the very same day.
India, Malaysia and Bangladesh, hosts to the largest number of Burmese refugees after Thailand, last Friday voted against a draft UN resolution on human rights situations in Burma. Thailand abstained from voting. Among those voting against the draft resolution were North Korea, China, Russia, Zimbabwe and Belarus.
The conference on refugee rights brought together civil society groups and regional and international actors from across the Asia-Pacific region, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
“Problems of forced migration and refugee situations exist due to disrespect of human rights. The fact that Burma has the largest number of refugees coming out of its borders into neighbouring countries alone is testament that concerned countries in the region need to adopt a more forward-looking and realistic policy,” said Victor Biak Lian of Chin Human Rights Organization who participated as a panellist in the conference.
Victor Biak Lian, a Board Member of Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) spoke as a panellist at the conference on the topic “Ethics in Working with Refugees: Community Perspectives and Principles of Partnership.” Proposing a more ethical and rights-based approach to dealing with refugee issues, Victor Biak Lian invited more non-governmental organizations in the region to engage in the protection of refugees in the region.
In an unrelated incident, a leader of Chin Refugee Committee (CRC), a refugee community group which won the Suaram Human Rights Award, died after suffering from stomach cancer at a Kuala Lumpur hospital. Those who knew Mr. Tin Hmung describe him as a dedicated and committed activist, who put the need and welfare of the community ahead of his own welfare and that of his family.
According to the conference papers, only 17 out of 55 countries in the Asia-Pacific region have only acceded to the international instrument governing the rights of refugees, an added challenge standing in the way of civil society groups in the region engaged in refugee protection advocacy.
Participants of the conference included civil society organizations from South Asia, Southeast Asia, Northeast Asia, Central Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific.
The first regional consultation of its kind, the conference is seen as a collective civil society initiative that will help to advance refugee rights across the Asia-Pacific region.
27 November, 2008