Trump immigration ban receives stern criticism in Southeast Asia

Indonesia says President Trump's immigration move could harm the global efforts to combat terrorism.

Southeast Asian countries express concern over US immigration ban
Demonstrators spell out "# No Muslim Ban" during the "Boston Protest Against Muslim Ban and Anti-Immigration Orders" to protest U.S. President Donald Trump's executive order travel ban in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. January 29, 2017. Reuters

US President Donald Trump's executive order suspending entry of citizens from seven Muslim majority nations has received stern criticism in southeast Asian countries. Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, expressed deep regret over Trump's hotly contested immigration ban. Jakarta said this move could harm the global efforts to combat terrorism.

Indonesia was not included in the list of banned countries and the foreign ministry conceded the decision was the sovereign right of the US. However, it said it "deeply regrets" the ban and believes it will have a "negative impact on global efforts to fight terrorism" and the handling of refugees.

"It is wrong to associate radicalism and terrorism with a particular religion," foreign ministry spokesman Armanatha Nasir said in a statement. "Efforts to combat terrorism must be carried out by promoting international cooperation, including in addressing the root causes of terrorism," Nasir added.

In Thailand, Bangkok Post said in an editorial the order was "dreadful and discriminatory." "This order is an obvious end run around his detestable campaign promise to ban all Muslims from entering the US," the editorial column said.

"While the US is busily tearing down its centuries of goodwill as a refuge which values freedom, it is sullying the world with this unprecedented attack on people based on nothing but the president's religious prejudice," the editorial added.

Apart from Indonesia, several governments including the US allies have criticized the policy. The politicians in Malaysia, a nation where 60 percent of the 28 million-strong population is Muslim, also voiced their concern. According to local media reports, Ong Kian Ming, an MP from the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) referred to Trump's policy as "inhumane" and urged the Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to condemn the action immediately.

Meanwhile, the Filipino youth movement Anakbayan also announced on Monday that it would hold a "let them in" rally outside the US embassy in Manila. In November 2016, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte trusted Trump's judgement and hoped that he would treat illegal immigrants fairly. Howvever, Manila had then urged Filipinos working illegally in the United States to return before Trump took office.

On Sunday, Assistant Presidential Communications Secretary Marie Banaag was quoted by ABS-CBN as saying that the US administration has the right to make such decisions. She also added that it was too early to comment on Trump's immigration move.

President Trump signed an executive order on Friday placing a 90-day ban on travel to the United States by citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen, and a 120-day suspension of the United States refugee programme. Syrians are indefinitely blocked from entry to the nation.