Rohingya Vision

ASEAN ‘cannot stay out of Rohingya crisis’

ASEAN ‘cannot stay out of Rohingya crisis’
June 18
11:40 2015

Despite a long tradition of non-interference among member states, ASEAN has been urged to be more involved in addressing concerns about the growing numbers of Rohingya people fleeing persecution in  Myanmar’s Arakan (Rakhine) province.

Indonesia has accepted some of the stateless Rohingya in Aceh province for up to a year, but a larger solution is needed to address the root causes of this crisis in order to stem the steady flow of asylum seekers.

Speakers at the Habibie Center’s discussion on “Talking ASEAN: ASEAN’s Response to the Rohingya Migrant Crisis” on Tuesday were united in their demand for ASEAN to work together to solve the crisis.

“It is now time for us to consider a new approach to the Rohingya,” said Tantowi Yahya, deputy chairman of the House of Representatives Commission I overseeing foreign affairs.

“The non-interference principle must change. What happens in one country will eventually become the problem of other member countries,” he said, adding that Indonesia should capitalize on its unique position in the region to effect change.

Former permanent representative to the UN Makarim Wibisono said that while Southeast Asia had formerly been riven with conflict, the establishment of ASEAN had been intended to make it a peaceful region.

In order for ASEAN to fulfill this promise and solidify its importance in the region, it must engage not just the elite but also the non-elite and move beyond formal meetings to more social exchange between ordinary people to encourage social cohesion in the region; without a sense of community, the Rohingya crisis will be difficult for ASEAN to address, according to Makarim.

He strongly urged the employment of the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, which he said currently had no authority or mandate to deal with the Rohingya case. Giving the commission the authority and resources to act would strengthen ASEAN’s role in addressing future humanitarian crises, as would stronger collaboration between ASEAN and Australia, he said.

UN High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) representative Thomas Vargas and Habibie Center executive director Rudi Sukandar also spoke about the crisis.

Vargas stressed the importance of viewing these asylum seekers not as economic migrants, but as refugees fleeing persecution, which was why the commission was involved in their plight.

Echoing others on the panel, he pointed to the issue of the refugees’ nationality as a top priority, but also urged ASEAN to look at economic factors that contribute to intercommunal conflict in Arakan (Rakhine) province, as different groups compete for scarce resources. Both issues were included in a document produced after a mid-May meeting between Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia. “ASEAN is at its core an economic institution,” said Vargas.

Sukandar, meanwhile, said economic development initiatives that brought people in Myanmar out of absolute poverty could also encourage Myanmar to act cooperatively rather than defensively.

On the other hand, he went on, gaining Myanmar’s cooperation to internationalize the crisis and allow other stakeholders to participate in its resolution might be difficult.

“In Eastern countries, we like to save face,” Sukandar said. “Nobody likes to be embarrassed and they have been embarrassed for so long.” He added that it might be necessary for other ASEAN member-states to come to an agreement on the internationalization of the Rohingya crisis and present a united decision to the Myanmar government in order to negotiate.

Note:Changes have been made,Jakarta post is not responsible for these.

Source:Jakarta post.



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