SINGAPORE: There is "not enough awareness at this point" in Singapore about the plight of Rohingya Muslim refugees, Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC Louis Ng said on Monday (Jan 22).
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia from a refugee camp in Cox's Bazaar, Bangladesh, Mr Ng said that he hopes more people can become aware of the issue.
"This is an issue that is happening in our own backyard, yet so few people know about it," he said. "Everyone knows about the Syria refugee crisis but very few people know about the Rohingya crisis."
Mr Ng is 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.
Calling his visit a "humbling" experience, he said that in addition to visiting the refugees, the group will also be meeting with some of Bangladesh's members of parliament to discuss the issue.
About 655,000 Muslim Rohingya 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.
Mr Ng said that Bangladesh had done an "amazing job" taking in the refugees.
"They're land scarce and yet they didn't close their borders," he said.
When asked whether Singapore could be doing something similar by taking in refugees, he said that he did not think Singapore could take in refugees at a similar scale, but said Singaporeans could donate more to help, citing previous Government donations of relief supplies.
Mr Ng said he had previously visited refugees in Indonesia and Malaysia, but added that he wanted to hear directly from those in Bangladesh too.
"I wanted to hear directly from them - what made them do a one- or two-week journey to Bangladesh?"
He said that refugees he had spoken to ultimately wanted to go back to the homes and land that they left.
"The stories they shared with me today - I don't know how you can ever describe it," he said.
He gave an inkling of the atrocities suffered by the refugees in a Facebook post on Monday, writing: "A painful story of a 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 us a video he had filmed of the dead bodies. And I held the hand of a five-year-old child who survived the ordeal but with a bullet wound to her arm."
He added that the Project Hearts to Hands refugee initiative - which he started with a group of volunteers - would be going to start a donation drive soon for the refugees in Bangladesh in ahead of the upcoming monsoon season.