Rohingyas Repatriation and Education for the Children

Parliamentary Question, 8 July 2019

Anthea Ong, Cox’s Bazar Bangladesh, Dec 2018

Ms Anthea Ong asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Vivia Balakrishnan (a) whether he can provide an update on the ASEAN Leaders’ discussion on the Rohingya issue at the ASEAN Summit held from 19–22 June 2019, especially on their repatriation and guaranteed safety on their return; and (b) what have the ASEAN Leaders agreed to do in the meantime with regard to the education and wellbeing of the children in Bangladesh who, being stateless, are missing out on formal education given the continued delay of a resolution.

Dr Vivian Balakrishnan: During the recent Summit last month, the ASEAN Leaders and Foreign Ministers received an update on the findings of the Preliminary Needs Assessment that was conducted in Rakhine State from 4 to 13 March 2019.

The assessment focussed on the readiness of the reception and transit centres, as well as potential relocation sites identified by the Myanmar government. ASEAN’s potential assistance to the Myanmar government’s repatriation efforts include enhancing the capacity of the reception and transit centres, increasing awareness of the repatriation process, and supporting the provision of basic services in Rakhine State. ASEAN remains committed to assisting Myanmar in addressing this challenge. The safety and security of returnees, and indeed of all communities in Rakhine State, is of paramount importance.

Repatriation should take place in a safe, voluntary, sustained and dignified manner. ASEAN will continue to support efforts by all stakeholders to create conducive ground conditions for repatriation to begin.

The security situation in Rakhine State remains a concern. It has further deteriorated following the clashes since December 2018 between the Myanmar military (Tatmadaw) and the Arakan Army (AA). ASEAN has urged all Parties to avoid further outbreak of violence so that humanitarian assistance could reach those who are in need.

The issue the member raised on education and wellbeing of the affected children in Cox’s Bazar is an important one. Various stakeholders — the Bangladeshi government, the UN and other international donors, and some ASEAN Member States — have extended assistance to the displaced persons in Cox’s Bazar. However, these are only temporary measures. So long as a permanent political solution remains elusive, the future of these children remain bleak.

That is why ASEAN has consistently stressed the need to find a comprehensive and durable solution to address the root causes of the conflict, and to create a conducive environment so that the affected communities can rebuild their lives. It is ultimately the responsibility of Myanmar to work towards a viable political solution that addresses the underlying causes of this longstanding and complex problem. This is the only way to resolve this problem once and for all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)

The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities. She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion — and volunteerism in Parliament.

She is also an impact entrepreneur/investor and a passionate mental health advocate, especially in workplace wellbeing. She started WorkWell Leaders Workgroup in May 2018 to bring together top leaders (CXOs, Heads of HR/CSR/D&I) of top employers in Singapore (both public and private) to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices to promote workplace wellbeing. Anthea is also the founder of Hush TeaBar, Singapore’s 1st silent teabar and a social movement that aims to bring silence, self care and social inclusion into every workplace, every community — with a cup of tea. The Hush Experience is completely led by lovingly-trained Deaf facilitators, supported by a team of Persons with Mental Health Issues (PMHIs).

A full-time human, and part-time everything else.

A full-time human, and part-time everything else.