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The Misfortune of the Rohingya People

Maria Reylan M. Garcia


Minority groups are living relics of a countrys history and culture. Their
existence retells stories that tattered manuscripts and chipped artifacts
cannot. Their preservation ought to be a burden shared universally, because
each state is essentially identified by such history and culture. However, the
misfortune of the Rohingya people contradicts this premise. These ethnic
migrants are lost at sea, depraved and famished. They are denied citizenship
and persecuted to the point of seeking refuge with human trafficking
syndicates. This ongoing human ping-pong depicts the lack of sympathy to
minority and ethnic rights in Southeast Asia.
But of course, why would the developing states prioritize the minorities,
much so foreign ones, when they are in fact struggling to wiggle out of the
mainstream economic quicksand? As it is, the rules of survival justify them
from refusing sanctuary to the Rohingya. Although less diplomatic when a
state turns a deaf ear to foreign mendicants, it is merely being pragmatic
when it rather allocates the supposed aide for stable national food supply or
potable water systems. The states have to protect their own. Poverty, after
all, is a valid excuse.
Yet, the war against poverty may it be local or global cannot be isolated
from the preservation of ethnicity. The International Labor Organization
recently released the results of a study in Peru that correlates ethnicity with
economic status. It was revealed that households of indigenous origin have
significantly higher poverty levels than those of households of nonindigenous origin. Sixty-two percent of households of indigenous origin are
poor compared to 35% of households of non-indigenous origin. The study
concluded that coming from a household of indigenous origin increases the
probability of becoming poor. This, among other studies, proves that the
indigenous and tribal peoples survive as among the poorest of societies.
Poverty and ethnicity are apparently inseparable. Thus, the minorities are
prone to the pangs of human rights abuses, conflict discrimination child
labor, forced labor, and gender-based marginalization problems that even
mainstream communities cannot easily prevail upon. To win against poverty,
those who are stricken most must be remedied most. More upsetting is the
emerging hopelessness of their living conditions as they would often accept
the status quo and will ultimately be denied effective representation in
national development and decision-making.
This misfortune of the Rohingya people appears to be also an irony. The
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is set to begin its one region
goal this 2015 where it descriptively yearns for educational reform and
regional cooperation all for each member-states economic and social

stability. The misfortune of the Rohingya people is a missed opportunity for


such implementation. Though technically not citizens of any ASEAN member
state, the Rohingya people shares common cultures, tradition and more
importantly, ancestry. Shouldnt their economic and social stability matter as
well?
How can it be an ASEAN community when there are reservations to extend
territorial sanctuary? How can there be one ASEAN region when the memberstates play Im not my brothers keeper? There will be food and shelter to
spare as society rests upon an equilibrium. The exclusive relief of one state
from hunger becomes the woe of the poorer neighbor. It has been proven
time and time again that when resources are combined tsunamis,
earthquakes and even super-typhoons can be survived, or at least
rehabilitated.
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BIO-NOTE: Maria Reylan Garcia, Juris Doctor III, University of St. La Salle
College of Law (Bacolod City, Philippines) reylangarcia@gmail.com