Singaporeans can extend their hearts on Rohingya refugee crisis


Suresh Nair

MEMBER of Parliament Louis Ng recently visited the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, and he promised the Rohingya refugees that their stories will be shared to the world.

“These are stories that everyone need to hear,” says Mr Ng. “We need to extend a helping hand. There is not enough awareness at this point in Singapore about the plight of Rohingya refugees.”

Making Singaporeans aware of the issue was one of his top priorities as Mr Ng went on a four-day visit to Bangladesh with others from the Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights group, a group of current and former Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) parliamentarians aiming to promote human rights in the region.

“This is an issue that is happening in our own backyard, yet so few people know about it,” he says. “Everyone knows about the Syria refugee crisis but very few people know about the Rohingya crisis.”

About 655,000 Rohingyas have crossed the border in Bangladesh from Myanmar since August last year, in the wake of a military-led crackdown in the country’s Rakhine state.

He reiterates Bangladesh generosity for sheltering the refugees. “They’re land scarce, with limited resources yet they didn’t close their borders,” he says.

Pragmatically, 39-year-old Mr Ng, the MP for Nee Soon GRC who is also chief executive of animal welfare group Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (Acres), says land-scarce Singapore can extend more to help, citing previous Government donations of relief supplies.

In a sincere plea, he urged Singaporeans to stand up at this “moment of humanitarian crisis at our backyard”. He says: “This makes it incumbent upon everyone in the international community to ensure that Myanmar guarantees the safety, rehabilitation and livelihood of Rohingya in the long term. They deserve freedom of movement and access to basic services such as health care and education.


“I’ve also spoken up about the Rohingya issue in Parliament, not only because this is a crisis happening in Asean which Singapore is a part of but, most importantly, because terrible things are happening which we should not remain silent about.

“I visited the refugee camps not just as someone who is an MP but also as a human being. And to hear all those stories and see how fellow human beings suffering so much, I cannot remain silent.”

Walking the talk, he also visited refugees in Indonesia and Malaysia, but wanted to hear directly from those in Bangladesh too.

“The stories they shared with me I don’t know how you can ever describe it,” he says, his voice choking with emotion. “I don’t even know where to start…it really was an emotionally painful day to say the least. I sat there listening to Rohingya refugees cries as they recounted stories, terrible stories of rape, murder, burning of their houses.”

He cited a heart-breaking story of a middle-aged father watching his nine-month-old baby get stabbed to death. A 22-year-old who lost his entire family of seven, who came to the refugee camp alone and who showed a video he had filmed of the dead bodies. He even held the hand of a five-year-old child who survived the ordeal but with a bullet wound to her arm.

He adds: “Yes, people need to hear these stories, realize that this is still happening in the 21st century. The plight of the Rohingya needs to be shared with the world and we need to speak up for them.


“They just want to go home, a place where they can feel safe, where their children can go to school, where they can move around freely. They want a country they can call home. They want something most of us take for granted – citizenship.”

Mr Ng added that the Project Hearts to Hands (Project H2H) refugee initiative – which he started with a group of volunteers – will initiate a donation drive soon for the refugees in Bangladesh ahead of the upcoming monsoon season.

Project H2H volunteer Suzanah Sarkwan who also toured the camps shared: “I do see resilience in the camps and generosity from the local host community. They are a country with limiting resources but full of people with big hearts as they chose to open their borders to help the Rohingya refugees. Plantations and forest were cleared to house the huge influx of refugees.

“I saw many homeless beggars on the streets including children who will knock on the sides and windows of our vehicle as we maneuver the overly congested traffic. We’re blessed to meet up with many inspiring NGOs groups such as Save the Children. It’s the amazing work of the humanitarian workers at the camps that restored my hope in humanity.”

Facebook writer Rachael Tang was among scores shocked at Mr Ng’s recounts. She says: “Thank you for doing this, Mr Ng. Yes, we need to continue to share stories of the plights of Rohingya and all refugees around the world. Being the Asean chair, Singapore should at least urge member states (and our own Government, too) to reconsider the position of non-interference.

“(PM) Lee Hsien Loong said one of the functions of Asean is “…to co-operate to improve the lives of the people in South-east Asia”. Let us not forget to help those who are the most in need in this region.”


Aminah Bee, over Facebook, adds:  “Children are too often the forgotten victims of war. Thank you for speaking up for them, Mr Ng.”

Another Facebook activist Victor Perinparaj says: “Singapore can draw on its own experience as a successful multiracial, multi-religious and multicultural experiment, offering lessons on how to get the people of Myanmar to embrace one another and work together as one for the greater good of the nation.

“Singapore, of course, continues to encourage all parties, including the Myanmar government and the international community, who hand-in-hand can foster a long-term solution to the Rohingya refugee crisis. Its position is that those directly responsible ensure the safety and protection of all people, regardless of race or religion.”

Some have also commented that we should care about Singapore and not the Rohingyas. To which Mr Ng replies: “This isn’t about caring for Singapore only or caring for the Rohingyas only. As some have rightly pointed out, we can do both and I intend to do both.

“I care deeply about Singapore and that is the reason I became an MP. And the Rohingya issue is one out of the many issues I focus on and have spoken up in Parliament about.”

As recently highlighted in the national media “the most vocal backbencher in Parliament”, Mr Ng has spoken up on a “swathe of issues – from gender equality to support for parents or premature and multiple babies – and for needy groups that have fallen through the aid cracks”.


After completing a fact-finding mission to Bangladesh, members of Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) have called upon South-east Asian governments to take greater action to resolve the Rohingya crisis.

“Where is Asean? This is the question we kept hearing from everyone we met,” says APHR Chairperson Charles Santiago, a Malaysian MP who headed the delegation. “We call on Asean to convene an urgent meeting of foreign ministers of all member states to discuss the crisis and establish a plan of action to resolve it.”

Former Thailand lawmaker Rachada Dhnadirek adds: “Asean countries must stop using the non-interference principle as an excuse for inaction. Financial commitment to support humanitarian assistance is critical, but it must be accompanied by pressure on the Myanmar military to end persecution that lies at the root of the crisis.”

Nearly five months into the Rohingya refugee crisis, UNHCR (the United Nations Refugee Agency) is increasingly worried about the deterioration of the overall protection environment in which refugees are living. In this environment, refugees face a multitude of protection risks, says Mr Ng.


Challenging times are inevitable. The monsoon season in southern Bangladesh has now ended and temperatures will soon decline. The average low for January is 15 degrees Celsius. While that temperature is moderate compared to many other regions, the lack of adequate clothing and shelter insulation makes refugees vulnerable to even modest declines in temperatures, especially at night.

It’s the kids, who are 55 per cent of the Rohingya refugee population, who are particularly vulnerable,” says Mr Ng, who is also Chairman of Nee Soon Town Council. “So are the women and they represent more than half of all refugees in Bangladesh. An estimated 10 per cent are either disabled, have serious medical conditions or older persons at risk.”

Mr Ng reiterates that the “truth is that refugees are still traumatised by the violence that they fled”.

He adds: “Experiencing first-hand, instances of mass killings, summary executions and widespread abuse in Rakhine, most of the refugees are drained and emotionally distraught. They have suffered a lot during the crisis and are struggling to overcome the tribulations.

“The UN, too, must be allowed full access to the Rakhine state to monitor the repatriation processes. The world cannot afford to allow the honor and dignity of refugees to be violated – at any cost.”

Singaporeans must continue to be made aware of this issue. Remember: Our response matters to ensure the safety and stability for the future generations.


  1. Glad that our MP is advocating for something progressive and feasible. This makes us realise that we can all do our part to help our neighbours.

    Way to go Louis Ng Kok Kwang!!

    • We have so many elderly who are homeless throughout the island. Why can’t we take care of them first!! They are our pioneer generation. Go out at night and have a look around. It’s really very sad

    • Well as a typical retarded PAP supporter, u can always por lan pa to the max.

      Young man, settle the problems we have here in SG before going to other countries people to assist.

      Cannot even wipe ur own asshole and yet still wana wipe othere??

  2. WE can definitely extend a helping hand to help the Rohingya refugees.I was at the camps and witnessed the amazing grace of service to Humanity by the Humanitarian workers and the host community.The people who have the least ,gave the most
    An act of kindness from person to person can travel around the world ❤️

  3. No doubt that call is a noble one ……….but cannot help but wonder why no call to extend more help to our own underprivileged, homeless, cardboard picking aunty and uncle , destitute, those poor local Singaporean who cannot even afford to seek consultation at gov. run clinic ??? unemployed who need to get food handout from temple ……??? no right ?
    why not fly to Calais migrant camp ! lagi tok gong !!!

  4. We can provide food, medicine n teach the family planning. No taking of refugees. This lot can cause lots of problems. Humanitarian help in Myanmar is good enough.

    Before going there, help the poor in our ghettos. We have many struggling in our poor neighbourhood. Charity starts at home.

    • Jacob Blue Many of these people have had their families murdered back in Myanmar, and have come to Bangladesh to escape genocide… What family planning are you on about?

    • I guess you didnt follow the news and didnt know that they have high birthrates. Even the Bangladeshi are fearful of their birthrates you can’t expect the Burmese to feel welcoming of them.

    • Jacob Blue don’t think anyone would accuse the Burmese of being welcoming of them. I think the issue here is your claim that their problems are self inflicted because of their lack of family planning. The immediate crisis is the persecution and genocide that they are facing.

    • HuiJun Chew
      Their problem is they are not from Myanmar. Their origin is Bangladesh. But Bangladesh refusing because they already have huge, uncontrolled population and this people would aggravate the situation. I am not saying they should be killed or prosecuted. But the root cause is they are unproductive in every aspect except producing babies. That has to be curbed. Why you need 9 kids when you can’t even feed or shelter? Can such minds contribute to country? Not much. They are muslims and prone to radicalisation. Burmese have their concern. There are 57 muslim countries in the world. Why they don’t want to absorb?

    • Mohan Sinnapillay “their origin is Bangladesh” are you sure about that one? Muslims have been living in the Burmese area since the 12th century. During British rule there were also much internal migration from India and Bangladesh before 1948. Even so, how long have you been in Singapore? When did your parents come? your Grandparents? Why are you Singaporean when these people aren’t Burmese. Its politics. Its ethnic discrimination. The Burmese government doesn’t recognize them as citizens, implement discriminatory polices and left the group ostracized and underdeveloped. After 1962, they could only apply for a foreign identity card that limits their education and employment opportunities In 82, the new citizenship laws effectively rendered them stateless. And you want to blame them for being unproductive in every aspect except producing babies?

    • Mohan Sinnapillay what about you Mohan when did you cross the border into Singapore? How come you’re a Singaporean citizen? Aren’t you of Indian decent? How come your(or your ancestor’s) migration is valid but theirs is not?

    • How about you? You are not original here too. Why not you get lost to your grandma land. Hey stop talking cock lah. Have you been to Myanmar? I been there several times and travelled around. Ask your coconut brain, why they particularly don’t like this lot?

    • Mohan Sinnapillay these people were systemically denied citizenship rights and privileges when they have as strong a claim for citizenship as you and i, and you’re being an apologist for their persecution. I’m sorry but i cannot in good faith agree that minorities that are poor and economically unproductive (in your terms) should be dealt with this way. The country should help these people, not persecute them. The people can have ill feelings towards them, sure, but as a society, we must strive to be better than the petty emotions of an individual.

    • Yes they were denied. They were bullied, they are not welcome. It’s a fact. Why? Myanmar has 2 million Indians like me, so many Chinese, so many gypsies. Why they hate this lot? Go and find out.

      Why are the 57 Muslim countries not accepting them?

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