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The Rohingya refugee crisis: Reflections from the region

21 January 2021
3.00pm – 4.30pm AEDT
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This panel brings together a range of experts to reflect upon key aspects of the Rohingya refugee crisis and discuss paths forward from this seemingly intractable problem. The Andaman Sea crisis of 2015 saw some 8,000 Rohingya and Bangladeshis stranded at sea in dire humanitarian conditions, and threw into sharp relief the region’s limited capacity to respond in a timely manner to the challenges of maritime migration. Subsequently, in 2017, the mass exodus of Rohingya from Myanmar saw almost 750,000 Rohingya flee into Bangladesh, joining those who had fled in previous years. Thus far, repatriation attempts have failed to meet the minimum acceptable standards, yet remaining indefinitely in Bangladesh is not a solution either. This panel explores some of the key outstanding issues resulting from this crisis, and how progress towards durable solutions might be made. 


About the speakers


Kean Shum is a Senior Policy Officer for the Myanmar Situation at the UNHCR Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacfici, based in Bangkok, Thailand. He has previously worked on mixed movements and refugee status determination for UNHCR, and before joining UNHCR was an associate with the law firm of Simpson, Thatcher & Bartlett.


Saw Myint is a Senior Field Associate at the UNHCR Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, based in Bangkok, Thailand. He has worked with UNHCR in various capacitites for 25 years, first in Myanmar and, since 2014, in Thailand. His work involves conducting interviews, monitoring, data collection, data analysis and publications on Rohingya movements, as well as providing Rohingya translation support and expertise to UNHCR County Offices in relation to mixed movements in the region.  

Wai Wai Nu emerged from seven years as a political prisoner to become a human rights advocate and the founder of two organizations: the Women Peace Network and the Yangon Youth Center. Through the Women Peace Network, Wai Wai works to build peace and mutual understanding between Myanmar’s ethnic communities and to empower marginalized women throughout Myanmar, particularly in Rakhine State, to advocate for their rights. Her work also aims to reduce discrimination and hatred among Buddhist and Muslim communities and to improve the human rights of the Rohingya people. 

Phil Robertson is the Deputy Director of Human Rights Watch's Asia Division. He oversees the organization's work throughout Asia, with special focus on Southeast Asia and the Korean peninsula. He serves as a human rights advocate engaging with government and UN agency officials, a spokesperson representing the organization’s views who regularly contributes to national and international media stories on Southeast Asia, a strategic campaigner on rights cases and causes, and a researcher and writer on topics of human rights, labour rights, refugees and migration.  


Dato’ Steven Wong is a Co-Convenor of the Asia Dialogue on Forced Migration (ADFM) and the former Deputy Chief Executive and Member of the Board of the Institute of Strategic and International Studies (ISIS) Malaysia. In that position, he oversaw foreign policy and security studies, while simultaneously heading the Institute’s economics and social work.  Steven has been directly involved in human security issues for about ten years and forced migration for five. He was educated at the University of Melbourne.