The Singapore Government Ministry of Home Affairs published a press release yesterday claiming that the island state is not in a position to take in asylum seekers.

“As a small country with limited land, Singapore is not in a position to accept any persons seeking political asylum or refugee status, regardless of their ethnicity or place of origin”

This press release is based on the backdrop of the influx of asylum seekers from persecuted Muslim minority, the Rohingyas. Both Myanmar and Bangladesh are turning a blind eye on the religion-motivated attacks against the Rohingyas typically by Buddhist extremists from Myanmar. The result of the persecution resulted in tens of thousands of them boarding human smuggler boats sailing along the Straits to seek asylum from other ASEAN countries.

Photo from Asiancorrespondent
Photo from Asiancorrespondent

However, ASEAN governments like Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand displayed their ugly not-in-my-own-backyard mentality taking the lead turning these asylum seekers away using weapon-loaded Navies. In yet another sign proving all talks of ASEAN unity as hypocritical rhetoric, the three best economies of South East Asia claimed they do not have the resources to take care of the asylum seekers.

The Thailand Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said:

“As there are many of them, we cannot look after them properly. Where will we put them? Right now we have to find a place for them to stay. In the future, if many more of them come, it will cause a problem. They will steal the jobs and livelihoods of Thais.”

The Singapore Government, self-proclaim the “first world country” in South East Asia, is also equally hypocritical giving excuses about “a small country with limited land” at asylum seekers, yet at the same time wanting to boost the country population’s to 6.9 million from the current 5.5 million. Earlier on the same week, the Singapore Government introduced up a new visa for China citizens that issues them multiple entries up to 10 years. The Singapore Government clearly put business interests above humanitarian obligations.

It is noted that none of the ASEAN countries is a signatory of the United Nation’s 1951 Refugee Convention.

While many more asylum seekers continue to die at sea, do you think ASEAN should apply more pressure against Myanmar and Bangladesh for their persecutions against the Rohingyas that led to the influx of refugees?