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Asean must not remain aloof from Rohingya dilemma 
The Malaysian Insider
12 November 2014

During the 2014 Asean Summit in Naypyidaw, the first one to be held in Myanmar, the plight of the Rohingya Muslims was left off the agenda. The failure to discuss the issue and the deliberate attempts by Myanmar to not recognise the Rohingyas in the recently held census has once again brought the uncertain fate of the Rohingyas to the forefront. (…)

Every day in Myanmar, Rohingya Muslims are denied their most basic human rights and face a risk of crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.

Myanmar is not just a member of the regional body, but heads Asean as its 2014 chair. The treatment of the Rohingya is a test of the degree to which Asean member states take seriously their commitment to regional cooperation on protecting human rights and their global pledge to the responsibility to protect populations from mass atrocity crimes.
So far, Asean states and the broader international community are failing in this commitment. For decades, they have turned a blind eye to the persecution of the Rohingya, one of the world’s most vulnerable minorities. (...)

Atrocities are not internal affairs. Every government, including all Asean member states, affirmed this in 2005 when they endorsed the Responsibility to Protect at the UN World Summit.

They committed to safeguard all populations, irrespective of their religion, ethnicity or citizenship, from crimes against humanity, genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes.

Asean’s own Charter obliges its members “to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms”.
Asean members must uphold their responsibility to protect and urge Myanmar’s government to take immediate action to halt the tide of hate speech, provide physical protection to vulnerable Rohingya communities, hold accountable all who incite or perpetrate crimes, and take concrete steps to foster a more inclusive society, foremost by granting Rohingya equal access to citizenship.

With atrocities unfolding, Asean members should provide a safe haven within their borders to Rohingyas seeking refuge. With Rohingyas facing the risk of crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, it is simply unacceptable for Asean states to appeal to regional preferences for “non-interference” as a justification for silence and indifference. (…)

There is an urgent need for the international and regional communities to remain firm in exerting pressure on the government of Myanmar to meet its obligations under the R2P principle. The leadership of the Association of South-East Asian States (ASEAN) must reconsider the predicament of the Rohingya in Burma (Myanmar), as it is rapidly becoming a regional issue.


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