Divided Asean urged to act on Rohingya crisis
THE ASSOCIATION of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has been urged to take urgent action on the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State, which has seen more than half a million Rohingya Muslims flee into Bangladesh in little over a month.
Amnesty International sent a letter to the Asean Secretary on Friday â€“ Philippines Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano â€“ calling upon the regional bloc to end â€œgrave human rights abusesâ€� against the stateless Rohingya population of Burma (Myanmar).
â€œAsean is failing to take a stand as one of its member states carries out a violent campaign of ethnic cleansing,â€� said James Gomez, Amnesty Internationalâ€™s Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.
SEE ALSO: Burma accused of crimes against humanity over Rohingya exodus
Rohingya refugees wait for humanitarian aid to be distributed at the Balu Khali refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh October 5, 2017. Source: Reuters/Mohammad Ponir Hossain
More than 500,000 mostly Muslim refugees have flooded into Coxâ€™s Bazar, Bangladesh since Aug 25 when members of the Rohingya militant group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) launched attacks on the outposts of Burmese security forces, sparking a violent backlash from the Tatmadaw.
The army has been accused of extrajudicial killings, arson of Rohingya villages and rape.
In its letter, Amnesty accused the security forces of unleashing a â€œunlawful and disproportionate campaign of violenceâ€�Â against the persecuted minority group. Along with Human Rights Watch, Amnesty has accused Burma of crimes against humanity.
The group called for the government to end violence, ensure assistance for Rohingya refugees and the safe return to Burma of those wishing to go back, ending â€œentrenched discriminationâ€� against Rohingya Muslims, and supporting independent investigations into human rights violations.
International criticism of the government of Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been widespread over her failure to end what UN Human Rights Chief has called a â€œtextbook example of ethnic cleansingâ€�.
According to the US-based watchdog Human Rights Foundation the situation â€œfits the legal definition of genocide under international law.â€� Asean, however, has been divided over the issue.
Late last month, Cayetano released a statement on behalf of Asean regarding the Rohingya situation which did not criticise Burmaâ€™s military, rather referring to the situation as â€œa complex inter-communal issue with deep historical roots.â€�
The Foreign Minister of Muslim-majority Malaysia Anifah Aman subsequently distanced his government from the statement, stating that it was a â€œmisrepresentationâ€� of reality in the Rakhine.
Philippineâ€™s Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Cayetano gives a speech at Asia Society in Manhattan, New York, U.S., September 21, 2017. Source: Reuters/Amr Alfiky
SEE ALSO: Indonesia positions itself as diplomatic actor in Rohingya crisis, but to what effect?
Indonesia has also publicly expressed its concern and has sent aid to the Rakhine for displaced Rohingyas. Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi flew to Burma soon after violence broke out in August for high level meetings with Suu Kyi and the military chief General Min Aung Hlaing.
â€œGovernments in the region must uphold the commitments to human rights enshrined in the Asean Charter, commitments which Myanmarâ€™s military is showing clear contempt for as they perpetrate crimes against humanity against the Rohingya,â€� added Gomez.
Thailandâ€™s Foreign Ministry on Thursday said it would provide 10 million Baht (US$300,000) in aid to displaced persons in Burma and Bangladesh.
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