jueves, 16 de abril de 2009

Burma open to talks on refugees/ Birmania abierta a hablar de refugiados

Burma's military regime has indicated it's willing to sit down with other countries in the region to discuss the plight of Rohingya asylum seekers.

Australia's Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said concerned countries raised the issue at a morning meeting on the sidelines of a people smuggling summit in Bali.

''The theme was, whether it's Rohingyas, whether it's other people movements, these are not issues that one country can resolve or address by itself, so there needs to be regional cooperation,'' Mr Smith, who is co-chairing the summit, said.

''And it's quite clear that one of the good things coming out of the meeting is that countries are prepared to sit down and talk with each other to address these problems.''

Burma indicated it was prepared to talk with Indonesia about roughly 400 Rohingya asylum seekers who came ashore in Indonesia's Aceh province.

The Rohingya, a Muslim ethnic group, are denied citizenship in mainly Buddhist Burma and human rights groups say they face repression and poverty. Thousands have fled the junta-ruled nation to neighbouring Bangladesh, while others have fled by boat in search of safety in other South-East Asian countries.

Their plight shot to international attention earlier this year when Thailand's military was accused of towing hundreds of the refugees out to sea in poorly equipped boats with scant supplies after they fled Burma.

Mr Smith announced Australia would provide an extra $3.2 million in humanitarian aid to Rohingya people living in Burma's northern Rakhine State.

''Australia is concerned about the deteriorating living conditions and increasing marginalisation of the Rohingya people in Burma and in refugee camps in Bangladesh,'' Mr Smith said.

''Their already parlous situation has been exacerbated by poor rice harvests, the rising price of basic food items and enforced restrictions on their movements.''

The aid package includes funding for the World Food Program, the United Nations Development Program and CARE Australia.

It adds to $4 million in assistance Australia has already given through the United Nations.