Myanmar FM rejects charges that persecution is to blame for boat people crisis

05 June 2015
Myanmar FM rejects charges that persecution is to blame for boat people crisis
Myanmar Foreign Minister Wunna Maung Lwin talks to diplomats during the Briefing the Diplomatic Corps and UN Agencies at Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Yangon, Myanmar, 04 June 2015. Photo: Nyein Chan Naing/EPA

Myanmar’s foreign minister said Thursday that the thousands of boat migrants who have washed up on Southeast Asian shores in recent weeks are mostly Bangladeshis fleeing poverty, rejecting charges, that persecution in his country is to blame, the Wall Street Journal reported on 4 June.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Wunna Maung Lwin said conditions in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where about 140,000 Rohingya Muslims are confined to squalid camps without citizenship, “are not the root cause” that drove migrants to pay for passage on smuggling boats. After a crackdown on human trafficking in Thailand, thousands of Bangladeshis and Rohingya Muslims were abandoned on the boats.
Mr. Wunna Maung Lwin accused the rescued migrants of “taking advantage of the situation in Rakhine state” and pretending they are from Myanmar. They aren’t fleeing persecution nor are they even mostly from Myanmar, he said at a briefing for diplomats and the media, but instead are predominantly people from Bangladesh seeking better job opportunities.
The latest comments underscore Myanmar’s rejection of what top diplomats and human-rights groups say is a systematic policy of discrimination against the Rohingya, a group in the country’s western Rakhine state that is denied citizenship rights and freedom of movement.