KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 16 — A Bangladeshi photographer said today he turned to social media to help kickstart a conversation on the plight of the Rohingya as there was no avenue in the mainstream press.
Speaking after launching his exhibition here today, Saiful Huq Omi said social media has played a vital role in creating conversations and discussions on the issues faced not just by the Rohingya, but also refugees from all around the world.
“Social media is the new media we have to take seriously. It has helped to engage more dialogue than the mainstream media you can actually have a discussion.
“The mainstream media in various countries doesn’t shed light on issues, or is either very compromised and one-sided,” he said during his speech at “No. 136: A Rohingya Photography Exhibition” today.
Saiful, who is also the managing director of NGO Counter Foto, added that the problems faced by the Rohingya in Myanmar were getting more extreme day by day and none of the authoritative bodies like the United Nations have been able to help them.
“The UN has failed, the EU have failed and the US have failed. We cannot afford any more failures, the group is in the last stage of genocide,” Saiful added.
Saiful’s exhibition here showcases over 50 pictures of Rohingya families who have fled to Bangladesh, Malaysia and the United Kingdom.
He, however, praised the authorities in Malaysia for being supportive of his work, including former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad whom he met some time back.
“I’m very happy that Malaysia has taken such a loud and strong position including the prime minister. I think that’s a great job done,” Saiful added.
Klang MP Charles Santiago, meanwhile, warned Asean ministers to be firm during their meeting with Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi next week.
“The Myanmar government should be accountable for what has transpired today. It is no longer state problem but a regional problem.
“Key question for foreign ministers when they meet in Myanmar would be the crimes against humanity in the Rakhine community. This meeting shouldn’t be treated as a political cover. They must press Aung San Suu Kyi,” he said during his address.
The Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) chairman also urged Malaysia to ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention.
United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) representative Richard Towle reasoned that the Rohingya were slow to get their UNHCR refugee cards due to a complicated application process and urged the government to be more lenient.
“The reason why it is slow to get UNHCR cards is because we do everything on our own. We need to come up with a situation where the government, NGOs and all work together
“How do we reach out to the people who are suffering and marginalised. We start by recognising the legal entitlement of refugees living in a place,” he said.
Malaysia has been quite vocal against the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in the Rakhine state of Myanmar despite most of them being here without refugee status.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, PAS President Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang and top leaders from both Umno and PAS had joined a rally to state their solidarity for the persecuted Rohingya in Rakhine.
Najib also vowed to fight against the Myanmar government over its allegedly selective treatment, abuse and killings of the predominantly Muslim Rohingya community.