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An opening given to the Rohingya

KUALA LUMPUR (AsiaNews): The Malaysian government has become one of the first to introduce a skills training programme for the Rohingya people who have fled persecution in the Union of Myanmar and failed to find a welcome in Bangladesh or Thailand.

The programme is aimed at turning out semi-skilled workers that can be absorbed into the country’s labour market. It will also normalise their status in the country in order to give them the protection of labour legislation.

The Rohingya are a minority people, mostly of the Islamic faith, whose traditional places of habitation ranged across Bangladesh, Thailand and Myanmar, but who have been denied citizenship in all three countries.

They have also been the victims of horrific violence in Myanmar which has seen over 90 of them killed and at least 34,000 displaced from their homes since October last year alone.

The prejudice appears to go right to the top, with the national government in Naypyidaw being accused of trying to erase the numerous complaints of abuse that have occurred.

Crimes that the Rohingya have complained about include summary execution, arbitrary arrest, rape and arson on their homes.

During a visit to the Tzu Chi Education Centre in Kuala Lumpur, the minister for immigration from New Zealand, Michael Woodhouse, praised Kuala Lumpur for the move.

“I understand the concerns on the standardisation of labour rights, which could push others to emigrate,” he said. “However, in all honesty I do not see this as a significant risk.”

Woodhouse added that his own country is also considering opening up more places for the resettlement of Rohingya refugees and currently around 15 per cent of New Zealand refugee intake are Rohingya.

New Zealand is one of 26 countries that has joined United Nations refugee resettlement plan and currently welcomes around 2,000 of them a year.

Malaysia intends to include about 56,000 Rohingya in its skills training programme.

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