Asean: Prioritize Rohingya rights, safety
Tribune Desk > Published at 10:50 am June 19th, 2019
File photo: A group of Rohingya refugee people walk after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border in Teknaf, Bangladesh Photo: MAHMUD HOSSAIN OPU
The organizations highlighted this as Southeast Asian leaders prepare to meet in Bangkok
Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), the Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia), and Progressive Voice have said the Myanmar government must ensure that the human rights of Rohingyas are protected and respected.
In a press release issued on Wednesday, they safe conditions should be created in Rakhine State before repatriating Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh. The organizations called for this as Southeast Asian leaders prepare to meet in Bangkok, Thailand—for the 34th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit—from June 20 to 23, 2019.
Earlier this month, a leaked copy of a preliminary needs assessment in Rakhine State—carried out by an Asean body—failed to acknowledge the Myanmar military’s atrocities and ongoing human rights abuses against the Rohingya.
“Asean needs to stop turning a blind eye to Myanmar’s atrocities against the Rohingya, and cease lending legitimacy to the repatriation process. We all know the Rohingya population in Bangladesh and elsewhere will not be returning home voluntarily until the situation on the ground in Rakhine State dramatically alters,” Eva Sundari, Indonesian MP and APHR board member, said.
“A huge political shift is needed for things to start moving in the right direction. Not one thing that the Rohingya themselves have identified as prerequisites for their return—and which has been echoed by rights groups and other experts—has been taken on board, in any serious way, by the Myanmar authorities,” the MP added.
On August 25, 2017, the Myanmar military launched a vicious “clearance operation” on the Rohingya minority. It killed thousands of people, burned villages, and forced over 700,000 Rohingyas to cross the border and take shelter in overcrowded refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar.
A United Nations (UN)-mandated fact-finding mission, in September 2018, called for the Myanmar military top brass to be investigated and prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes.
On June 7, 2019, a copy of the “Asean Preliminary Needs Assessment for Repatriation in Rakhine State” report by the Asean Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) and their Emergency Response and Assessment Team (Asean -Erat) was leaked to the media.
The draft report ignores the root causes of why hundreds of thousands of Rohingya were forced to flee their homes including the atrocities committed by Myanmar security forces and their proxies, plus the institutionalized discrimination imposed by Myanmar authorities against the minority in Rakhine State for decades.
Furthermore, the draft report fails to mention the word “Rohingya,” instead calling the community “Muslims.” “Unless concrete steps towards international accountability for the genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes are taken, ongoing impunity will only embolden the Myanmar military to commit more such atrocities. Any returned refugees will be vulnerable to the same violence that caused them to flee in the first place; this will be like sending them back to the killing fields to be re-victimized,” Khin Ohmar, Chair of Progressive Voice Advisory Board, said.
Clashes between the Myanmar security forces and the Arakan Army ethnic armed organization have displaced at least 30,000 people since the beginning of the year, further underlining the precariousness of the situation in Rakhine State.
As the Asean report on the refugee repatriation process is expected to officially be released to the public in the coming weeks, the APHR, Forum-Asia, and Progressive Voice call on Asean to ensure that the bloc does not become complicit in the forced or premature repatriation of Rohingya refugees.
They have called on Asean to take meaningful steps toward the promotion and protection of the rights of the Rohingya community; including through acknowledging the Rohingya identity, restoring Rohingya’s full citizenship, and ensuring Rohingya’s participation in all decisions concerning them.
John Samuel, Executive Director of Forum-Asia, said: “Asean has so-far remained shamefully silent in the face of the serious human rights violations taking place in one of its Member States.
“With the second anniversary of Myanmar military’s latest ‘clearance operation’ approaching, continued inaction by Asean will send a dangerous signal that the bloc is indifferent to the plight of the Rohingya and that human rights violations can be carried out with impunity”.