COX’S BAZAR (Bangladesh), Oct 20 ― During Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s visit to the Rohingya refugee camp on Monday, he was surrounded by a large number of journalists, a scenario that caught this writer by surprise.
Apart from the Malaysian media, scores of local and international journalists including media representatives from some of Asean countries were at the Kutupalong Camp to cover Ahmad Zahid’s visit.
An officer of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at Kutupalong Camp was of the view that the presence of a big number of media representatives covering Ahmad Zahid’s visit was because not many key leaders of a country would come to see the situation at the Rohingya refugee camp, whereas Malaysia was sending its number two leader.
Ahmad Zahid’s visit and presence was also giving a clear message to the world that Malaysia was serious about the issue and desired a long-term solution to the ethnic persecution in the Rakhine state of Myanmar.
During his one-day visit, Ahmad Zahid met the refugees and witnessed the condition around the camp, which he described as most deplorable compared to other refugee camps he had visited, apart from visiting other facilities provided such as schools and clinics.
Ahmad Zahid also announced that Malaysia would build a field hospital to enable more refugees to receive better healthcare.
The RM3.5 million field hospital would be built by the Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) Medical Corps and assisted by the Ministry of Health within a month, once the project met the requirements set by the Bangladesh government.
He also wanted the National Security Council (MKN) to coordinate the humanitarian aid efforts – from governments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), media organisations or any individuals - that would be channeled to Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
Therefore, all assistance can be streamlined including for the purchase of essential items that are not only limited to food and medical aid.
“In terms of food, I saw the United Nations World Food Programme is already there, IOM (International Organisation for Migrants) medicine is also available. So the MKN can think of the other forms of assistance needed,” he told a press conference at Kutupalong Camp.
Additionally, he also announced the proposal for Malaysia to place a MKN humanitarian and welfare attache in Bangladesh to implement the government's commitment to help the Rohingya refugees in the camp.
Ahmad Zahid said he would submit the proposal during the Cabinet meeting next week so that it could be implemented immediately.
This is to ensure that all assistance would reach the target, and to determine the type of assistance that the refugee needed, and when implemented, this will be the first time for Malaysia to place any humanitarian and welfare attache in any country.
For a Rohingya refugee, Musa Khalil, 27, Ahmad Zahid’s visit attracted the refugees’ attention as Malaysia was one of the countries that often helped them in the camp here, as there would be some provision that arrived from Malaysia daily.
“Many of us here are looking to find a job in Malaysia, but do not realise that as a refugee, we cannot legally work in Malaysia,” said Musa, who could speak in Malay after working in Malaysia from 2009 to 2014.
The humanitarian crisis has been steadily escalating in the Rakhine state as more and more ethnic Rohingya fled to Bangladesh daily that resulted in more refugee camps being erected.
The actual number of refugees has yet to be ascertained but many parties claimed it has exceeded one million people.
For the record, there are only two official refugee camps for the Rohingyas, namely Kutupalong and Nayapara, however, dozens of temporary camps have been erected by the refugees themselves and that number kept increasing daily. ― Bernama