See More on Facebook

Diplomacy

Include Rohingya in talks on repatriation: rights groups

Asean urged to use its influence on Myanmar to seek accountability for atrocities and ensure their safe return.


Written by

Updated: June 18, 2019

Human rights organisations are calling on Asean to pressure Myanmar into allowing the ethnic group to participate in the process of their safe return.

Asean could persuade Myanmar to take effective steps to improve the situation on the ground first, said Laura Haigh, a researcher on Myanmar affairs at Amnesty International.

“Asean has failed to respond to the scale and gravity of the crisis, and this marks a stain on the bloc’s credibility,” Haigh told The Nation yesterday.

She added that Asean should use its influence to push for a full and unfettered humanitarian access to Myanmar’s Rakhine state, hold them accountable for the atrocities and remove restrictions on the Rohingya – particularly on their free movement that has prevented them from accessing education, healthcare and places they rely on for livelihood.

“Asean should also make clear that there must be accountability for the atrocities and join international calls for Myanmar to be referred to the International Criminal Court,” she said.

Amnesty International has huge concerns about the repatriation process, not least because Rohingya refugees have yet to be consulted and included in the discussions, she said.

“As it stands, Rakhine state is not a safe place – there has been virtually no accountability for the atrocities, and the apartheid system, which stripped the Rohingya of their rights, remains in place,” she said. Haigh also noted that their return cannot be safe, voluntary or dignified until the Rohingya are included in discussions about their future.

Asean officials should themselves take time to speak to the Rohingya, Matthew Smith, co-founder and chief executive of Fortify Rights, said

“A lot of people are talking about the Rohingya returning to Myanmar, but none of those people are Rohingya themselves. That needs to change,” he said.

“The Rohingya deserve a seat at the table, whether the issue is humanitarian aid, accountability and justice, return of refugees or any other issue affecting their lives.”

‘Wilful denial of truth’

Smith said Asean must provide an accurate assessment of conditions in Rakhine, which he considers an apartheid state where mass atrocities are taking place.

“To pretend the environment is conducive for the return of the refugees is a wilful denial of the truth,” he said.

Asean should also hold the perpetrators of human-right violations in Rakhine state accountable, he said, adding Myanmar officials only trust Asean on issues related to Rakhine.

If Myanmar is serious about repatriation, it should also amend the 1982 Citizenship Law so that Rohingya people have full access to citizenship, he said.

He added that the authorities should close down existing internment camps, lift restrictions on freedom of movement and cooperate with international investigators and prosecutors so those responsible could be made accountable.

“At this point, any talk of repatriation is a farce. Myanmar wants the world to believe it’s done nothing wrong and that it’s welcoming the Rohingya with open arms. The reality is nasty,” he said.

“Any returns would have to be voluntary, safe and dignified, and Myanmar is not prepared to offer any of that.”

Aung Tun Thet, chief coordinator at the Union Enterprise for Humanitarian Assistance, Resettlement and Development in Rakhine, told The Nation yesterday that Myanmar had already opened the doors for returnees.

“Bangladesh and some international organisations have long accused us of our attitude towards the Rohingya. This is not strange because they always rely on such political attacks,” he said.

“No matter how hard we try to ensure peace and stability in Rakhine state, they will keep on talking like this. So, we don’t mind what they talk about, what we really mind is finding the best possible way to welcome back the returnees.”

According to a recently leaked report jointly conducted by Myanmar and Asean, the nation aims to accept between 500,000 and 740,000 refugees within two years.

When asked if this was an ambitious target, Aung Tun Thet said, “This comes from systematic research, and we are all trying to make the whole process smooth. We see no reason to assume it is impossible.

“But, it will entirely depend on the returnees themselves. We have created a better environment for them, ensuring some job opportunities once they return. It is now up to them whether or not they will return to lead a better life,” he said.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


The Nation (Thailand)
About the Author: The Nation is a broadsheet, English-language daily newspaper founded in 1971 and published in Bangkok, Thailand.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Diplomacy

10 US senators criticise Suu Kyi for representing military’s interest

Suu Kyi is in the Hague defending Myanmar from genocide accusations. Ten US Senators have severely criticized Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi for representing the military’s interest before the International Court of Justice and defending the mass atrocities committed against the Rohingyas and other ethnic minorities. “Representing the Burmese military’s interest before The Hague and defending the mass atrocities committed against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities would undermine what remaining credibility you have before the international community, including in the US Congress,” said a letter to Suu Kyi issued on December 9. The Senators said a defense of the Burmese military at this high-profile international forum is also an affront to the inclusive, multi-cultural and democratic Burma that she claims to champion. They said when Buddhist nationalism is on the rise in


By Daily Star
December 13, 2019

Diplomacy

India under Modi is moving systematically with a supremacist agenda, says PM Imran

Imran Khan made the comments after India passed a controversial citizenship requirement. Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Thursday that India, under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been moving systematically with a Hindu supremacist agenda. The prime minister was referencing the controversial Citizenship Amendment Bill passed by India’s upper house amid protests on Wednesday. The bill will let the Indian government grant citizenship to millions of illegal immigrants who entered India from three neighbouring countries before 2015 — but not if they are Muslim. Modi’s government — re-elected in May and under pressure over a slowing economy — says Muslims from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan are excluded from the legislation because they do not face discrimination in those countries. Taking to Twitter, Prime Minister I


By Dawn
December 13, 2019

Diplomacy

China, US in constant touch to resolve trade issues

China and the United States are in constant touch to resolve pending trade and economic issues, the Ministry of Commerce said on Thursday. The comment came ahead of Sunday’s US deadline for another scheduled round of tariff increases on Chinese imports worth almost $160 billion. If a trade deal is not struck by Sunday, computer monitors and toys will be among the Chinese export items likely to be affected. Gao Feng, a ministry spokesman, said the Customs Tariff Commission of the State Council has already worked out tariff exemptions on some soybean, pork and other products shipped from the US — the latest sign of tensions easing in the protracted trade conflict. The US seems to resort to brinkmanship by using a tariff deadline to pressure China in the ongoing trade talks for a phase one, preliminary deal, said Chen Wenling, chief economist at the China Center for International Economic Exchanges


By China Daily
December 13, 2019

Diplomacy

US warns N. Korea against ‘ill-advised’ action

North Korean threats unlikely to succeed in bringing the US to the table. A top US diplomat warned North Korea on Thursday against taking any “ill-advised” action in light of its veiled threats to resume nuclear and long-range missile tests. David Stilwell, US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, made the remark as North Korea has threatened to take a “new way” unless the US offers concessions in their stalled denuclearization negotiations before the end of the year. Washington has urged Pyongyang to stick to its commitment to cease nuclear and long-range missile tests, saying they would be count


By The Korea Herald
December 13, 2019

Diplomacy

Trump urges passage of defense bill with provision against troop drawdown in S. Korea

Trump has previously asked Korea to pay its fair share to keep US troops on the peninsula. US President Donald Trump on Wednesday urged Congress to pass a defense bill containing a provision restricting the drawdown of American troops in South Korea. On Monday, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees agreed on the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, which authorizes funding for the Department of Defense. According to the accompanying conference report, the new bill restricts the use of funds for removing troops from South Korea, an issue that has drawn intense scrutiny amid contentious cost-sharing negotiations between Seoul and Washington.


By The Korea Herald
December 12, 2019

Diplomacy

Aung San Suu Kyi denies genocidal intent on Rohingya

She urges world court to let Myanmar justice system work. Denying that Myanmar had genocidal intent in its treatment of the Rohingya people, its de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Wednesday (Dec 11) urged the International Court of Justice in The Hague to let her country’s justice system run its course. “Can there be genocidal intent on the part of a state that actively investigates, prosecutes and punishes soldiers and officers who are accused of wrongdoing?” she asked at the world court, while presenting her opening statement on the second day of public hearings related to Gambia’s lawsuit alleging that Myanmar had breached the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Carefully avoiding the word “Rohingya”, Ms Suu Kyi said Gambia has given “an incomplete and misleading factual picture”. She referred in her half-


By The Straits Times
December 12, 2019