Asean bloc’s silence on Rohingya plight benefits Suu Kyi

Asean bloc’s silence on Rohingya plight benefits Suu Kyi

It is not clear whether the crisis was on Asean’s official agenda, but at least two countries- Malaysia and Indonesia -had discussed the issue on the meeting’s sidelines on Monday.

The de facto leader of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi was probably counting on the Southeast Asian bloc to keep silent at the Asean summit in Manila on Monday, regarding the brutal military crackdown carried out by her government against the Rohingya people in northern Rakhine state.

United Nations had described the clearing tactics used by the Myanmar army as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing that forced thousands of displaced Rohingya to enter Bangladesh.

It is not clear whether the crisis was on Asean’s official agenda, but at least two countries– Malaysia and Indonesia – had discussed the issue on the meeting’s sidelines.

Bangladesh, where more than 600,000 Rohingya have took shelter since late August, is not a member of Asean.

“The Rohingya people’s plight was discussed in the plenary. It was brought up by two member states, and Myanmar specifically addressed the Rohingya issue,” said Harry Roque, spokesman for the summit’s host, Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte.

According to a report quoting Roque and published by the CBS News, the delegation from Myanmar said Suu Kyi’s government was “in the process of attending to” a report compiled by former UN chief Kofi Annan, laying out a series of steps to end the violence and repatriate the Rohingya.

“The officials from Myanmar had assured their neighbours that the process of repatriation for IDPs (displaced people) will conclude within three weeks after signing of a memorandum agreement, we understand, with Bangladesh,” Roque added.

On the other hand, David Mathieson, a former human rights researcher who is now an independent analyst based in Myanmar, pointed out that Asean summits are not designed to actually construct policy responses to major human rights issues that affect the whole region.

“Right now, Suu Kyi’s government is benefiting from Asean’s culture of inaction,” he added.

Rohingya insurgents attacked several Myanmar police posts in northern Rakhine state, triggering the refugee crisis in Bangladesh on August 25.

Myanmar security forces responded with disproportionate show of force that human rights groups claim have killed hundreds of people and left numerous Rohingya villages burned to the ground.

Rohingya survivors have described torture, arson, rape and shootings by Myanmar soldiers and Buddhist mobs for the sole purpose of forcing Rohingya to leave.

The Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for generations. However, Myanmar has long denied them citizenship and most people insist the Rohingya are illegal.

Myanmar leader Suu Kyi was awarded the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize for her “non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights,” in the words of the Nobel committee, but has been reluctant to defend the Rohingya.

Suu Kyi had asked for patience from the international community and hinted that the refugees were partly responsible for the crisis in a speech delivered on September.

She also tried to downplay the gravity of the situation, claiming that more than half of the Rohingya villages in Rakhine state had not been destroyed.

Suu Kyi has been the de facto head of Myanmar’s civilian government since her party won a landslide victory 2015 election. However, her control over the country is limited by a constitution written by the military junta that ruled Myanmar for decades.

Her government still defended the gruesome campaign of terror perpetrated by the Myanmar Army.

Non-interference has long been a bedrock of Asean, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

However, Chandra Widya Yudha, director of the Asean Political and Security Cooperation at Indonesia’s Foreign Ministry, told The Associated Press that his government would address the Rohingya crisis at the meeting.

“We cannot keep silent because we have to help them,” Yudha said.

Source: Dhaka Tribune.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *