“ASEAN Member States shall act in accordance with the principle of Non-Interference of Internal Affairs of its Member States.” [ASEAN Charter, Article 2, Principles 2(e)]
By M.S. Anwar
Opinion Editorial І Rohingya Vision TV
Thousands of Rohingya people have been killed and more than 140,000 people internally displaced, many of their villages uprooted in Arakan state of Myanmar (Burma) since the (state-sponsored) violence against them (the Rohingya) began in June 2012. The slow-burning ethnic cleansing operation has caused mass exoduses of the Rohingyas as they try to leave their homeland in search for safe havens. Unfortunately, there are sharks in the form of human traffickers waiting to take advantage of their vulnerable situation. The traffickers embark the victms on rickety boats and smuggle them by dangerous sea journeys to Malaysia, via Thailand.
The human trafficking rings — that extend from Myanmar, Bangladesh, and Thailand to Malaysia — are run by people of different background of nationalities such as some greedy Rohingya themselves and Rakhine Buddhists of Myanmar, Bangladeshis, Thais and Malaysians. On the other hand, Myanmar’s authorities have long facilitated the Rohingya trafficking since driving the people out of the country is a part of its ethnic cleansing program. However, of all, a sad truth is that, in the last few years, some corrupted lower-level authorities and officials of the reputed countries (such as Thailand and Malaysia) have cooperated with human traffickers to serve their self-interests.
According to a UNHCR Report published in August last year, more than 20,000 Rohingya people have risked their lives in Indian oceans. However, these figures could well be just a fraction of thousands of people already risked their lives by boat journeys. Since then, the numbers of the people leaving Myanmar have kept increasing as the persecution by its government continues. Nevertheless, sadly, all the calls to stop the tragic trafficking of the violence-hit victims have fallen into deaf ears until the recent findings of mass graves of trafficking victims in southern Thailand.
When the ration, water and fuel on the boats are about to run out, the traffickers set the boats adrift to the sea. The recent two boats that have stranded in Indonesia’s Aceh province and Malaysia’s Langkawi with more than 600 people and 1000 people respectively are cases for examples.
[row][double_paragraph] [blockquote style=”1″] If the issue in Myanmar is not tackled in time (just for the sake of economic ties with the country), it may cause regional destability, threaten regional peace and security; and even become an Asian problem in time to come. [/blockquote] [/double_paragraph]
On the other hand, as the boat people are unable to enter Thailand, there are many boats floating hopelessly off the coasts of not only Thailand and Malaysia but also Myanmar. The survivals of the boat victims are in high limbo. Many children on the boats have reportedly been dead out of malnutrition. In short, the situations that the boat people are currently going through are unimaginable.
These are some extremely tragic cases of the one of the world’s persecuted and ignored people. Many more are yet to be told or heard. Such human trafficking may not be stopped just by arresting and imprisoning some human traffickers or busting human trafficking camps. If one human trafficking gang is busted today, tomorrow another might appear. One never knows.
Therefore, it is extremely crucial for the ASEAN authorities and decision makers to solve the root causes leading to mass exoduses of the Rohingya people and which in turn, increases human trafficking, a crime under international law. Therefore, this can no longer be considered only an internal affair of Myanmar. It is a regional crisis leading to catastrophes, which needs serious consideration of the regional government bodies.
Above all, a non-action by the ASEAN states to solve the Rohingya issue will lead to more influxes of the refugees in ASEAN nations especially Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia and facilitate human trafficking further. Thus, the reputations and images of the countries are also at stake. Most importantly, if the issue in Myanmar is not tackled in time (just for the sake of economic ties with the country), it may cause regional destability, threaten regional peace and security; and even become an Asian problem in time to come.
And hence, ASEAN is required to intervene in Myanmar’s Rohingya problems going beyond its traditional stand in accordance with the ASEAN Charter of Non-Interference of Internal Affairs of its Member States. Failing to intervene in Myanmar or solve the root causes of the human trafficking might mean that ASEAN states’ approach is not in compliance with the Article 2, Principle 2 (b) of ASEAN Charter.
On the humanitarian ground itself, it is the high time for not only ASEAN nations but also International Community to take effective actions against the Myanmar’s government to stop the ongoing ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya.
M.S. Anwar is a student and News Editor of Rohingya Vision TV.
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