By Tsubasa Nair | Free Malaysia Today
Malaysia’s system for handling refugees is getting overwhelmed by the increasing number of refugees which has been rising since the Myanmar coup in 2021, says an NGO.
Lilianne Fan, director of the Geutanyoe Foundation, said 1.5 million people have been displaced from Myanmar since the coup, including 250,000 children and 70,000 new refugees.
It was not just Malaysia that was getting overwhelmed by the increasing number of refugees, but other countries in Southeast Asia as well, she said.
“The systems that are in place, even if inadequate to begin with, are already overwhelmed. So, this is definitely a crisis,” she said when speaking as a panellist during the National Peace Conference organised by Iman Research here.
Fan called for the establishment of a regional refugee protection framework among Asean countries, adding that a country did not have to be a signatory of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention to have its own mechanism to protect refugees.
“If we don’t put in place a regional protection framework, the nations in the region will have no guidance on how to support refugees.
“We do understand that not all of our countries will be ready, at this point, to sign the Refugee Convention, but that does not stop the important dialogue (on refugees) that needs to happen.”
She added that Malaysians were largely unaware of the scale of the conflict in Myanmar.
Another panellist, lawyer Edmund Bon, said there was a need to recast the view of conflict to include “structural and cultural violence”.
Structural violence exists when social structures prevent people from meeting basic needs, thus harming them, while cultural violence involves perceptions and attributes used to justify or legitimise direct and structural violence.
While direct violence often manifested at a visible level, through genocide or insurgencies, Bon said structural and cultural violence was invisible but latently present.