Correction: Burma-Asean story

19-Aug-2019 Intellasia | AP | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Malaysia’s foreign ministry said Tuesday that Myanmar’s government must pursue justice for alleged human rights abuses against the Muslim Rohingya minority so that hundreds of thousands who fled a brutal military crackdown can return safely to the country.

The call came ahead of a meeting of Southeast Asian foreign ministers in Bangkok this week. It also followed a weekend meeting between a Myanmar government delegation and representatives of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to discuss creating conditions for their safe repatriation.

More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after a counterinsurgency campaign by Myanmar’s military in the western state of Rakhine in response to attacks in 2017 by a Rohingya insurgent group. The campaign led to accusations that security forces committed mass rapes and killings and burned thousands of homes.

United Nations experts said they found evidence that Myanmar’s military committed crimes with “genocidal intent” against the Rohingya.

“Many efforts are ongoing to solve the Rohingya crisis, but ultimately, we need the political will in Myanmar and internationally to move forward,” Malaysia’s foreign ministry said in an email reply to questions by The Associated Press.

“Malaysia maintains the view that the government of Myanmar has the primary responsibility to act on allegations of human rights abuse committed in Rakhine state. Ensuring accountability is imperative to finding a solution to the crisis, and to the creation of a conducive environment for the return of displaced Rohingya to Myanmar,” the ministry said.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, to which Malaysia belongs, this year endorsed legal action against Myanmar at the International Court of Justice for violating the Genocide Convention of 1948. Also this year, International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda asked the court to open an investigation into possible international crimes against the Rohingya.

However, attempts to censure Myanmar at the UN Security Council failed due to lack of support from China and Russia.

Malaysia’s foreign ministry said in its email that it was concerned that “international power politics” have dampened efforts to bring the Rohingya crisis before an international judicial mechanism. It said Malaysia will continue to work with other countries to push for accountability in Rakhine.

The ministry acknowledged that the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations has not focused on addressing the atrocities in Rakhine but said Asean’s role, largely limited to providing humanitarian assistance, could contribute positively in expediting the repatriation process.

Asean, which has a policy of non-interference in each other’s affairs, has been criticised for failing to take a tougher stance against Myanmar.

Asean foreign ministers are expected to receive a briefing from Myanmar when they meet Wednesday.

In a draft of the proposed Asean ministerial communique seen by the AP, the ministers say they hope an investigative body set up by Myanmar’s government will seek accountability through an impartial investigation into the alleged human rights violations. The statement didn’t mention the word “Rohingya,” identifying the group as “displaced persons.”

“We stressed the need to find a comprehensive and durable solution to address the root causes of the conflict and to create a conducive environment so that the affected communities can rebuild their lives,” the ministers said.

Over the weekend, Myanmar officials held talks with representatives of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to discuss conditions for their safe return and agreed to further talks. In November, the refugees rejected a plan for their repatriation out of fears for their safety.

Buddhist-majority Myanmar has long considered the Rohingya to be “Bengalis” from Bangladesh even though many of their families have lived in the country for generations. Nearly all have been denied citizenship since 1982, effectively rendering them stateless, and they are also denied freedom of movement and other basic rights.


Category: Regional

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