The UN wants the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to intensify actions to solve the Rohingya refugee crisis, in which, it says, it is ready to cooperate with the 10-member regional body.
“The time to act is now,” said UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in a meeting with the foreign ministers of the association members on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York over the weekend.
The UN welcomes constructive approaches by the Asean as well as the provision of humanitarian assistance for the Rohingyas, reports Myanmar Times yesterday.
Antonio Guterres called for three immediate actions -- suspension of military and security operations, unfettered access for humanitarian agencies to affected communities, and allowing the safe return of those who fled the country facing attacks.
About 450,000 Rohingyas fled violence in Myanmar's Rakhine state into Bangladesh after Myanmar security forces began a crackdown on the community in response to August 25 Rohingya insurgents' attacks on Myanmar police posts and an army base.
Rights bodies said actions against the Rohingyas were disproportionate as Rohingya villages were burned down, men killed and women raped. The UN termed it a "textbook example of ethnic cleansing".
Last week, Myanmar's State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi claimed clearance operations had ended on September 5 and that humanitarian aid was delivered to the affected areas in Rakhine without discrimination.
However, fire was still seen on September 23 burning the Rohingya villages, Amnesty International said, while Doctors Without Borders said hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas internally displaced in Rakhine were facing shortages of life-saving assistance.
The issue was a major agenda in the UN meeting last week.
The UN secretary general said multilateralism and regional integration are absolutely vital in today's world, representing an opportunity to promote prosperity as well as advance human rights and the rule of law.
Under the Asean-UN Comprehensive Partnership, both sides can intensify and integrate efforts to ensure peace and security, sustainable development, human rights and humanitarian action, Antonio Guterres said.
Given the threat of terrorism and violent extremism worldwide, including in Southeast Asian nations, he pointed out that the new UN Office of Counter Terrorism and the UN as a whole stand ready to support the Asean in addressing these complex threats through regional cooperation.
MALAYSIA DISASSOCIATES FROM ASEAN STATEMENT ON RAKHINE VIOLENCE
Meanwhile, Malaysia on Sunday said it "would like to disassociate itself" from a statement issued by the Asean on the situation in Myanmar's Rakhine state, reports cable television news agency, Channel News Asia.
The Asean chairman in a statement issued on the sidelines of the UN general assembly condemned the Aug 25 attacks on Myanmar security forces, as well as "all acts of violence which resulted in loss of civilian lives, destruction of homes and displacement of large numbers of people".
Malaysia's Foreign Minister Anifah Aman in a separate statement said his country felt the Asean statement was a "misrepresentation of the reality of the situation".
"The statement also omits the Rohingyas as one of the affected communities," he said.
Malaysia urged Myanmar to immediately implement recommendations made in an advisory commission's final report on the Rakhine state, Anifah added.
The Asean statement called the situation in Rakhine a "complex inter-communal issue with deep historical roots", and "strongly urged" all parties to avoid actions that could worsen the situation on the ground.
APRRN URGES INTL COMMUNITY TO PRESSURE MYANMAR
The Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN), meanwhile, urged the international community to apply all possible measures to pressure Myanmar into halting military operations, protecting civilians and ensuring unfettered humanitarian access to Rakhine State.
In a statement by APRRN Programme Coordinator Evan Jones, the Thailand-based rights body demanded implementation of all recommendations of the Rakhine Advisory Commission led by Kofi Annan.
"Nations cannot stand aside and watch hundreds of thousands of people being forcibly displaced, thousands indiscriminately killed, in a government-sponsored operation amounting to ethnic cleansing," it said.
It also urged the international community to rally around Bangladesh that is under extreme pressure in the face of this humanitarian emergency.
HRW SLAMS INDIA
Human Rights Watch has slammed India for “mistreating” the Rohingya refugees.
It referred to Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh who said in a recent tweet that his government is “not violating any international law” if it deports Rohingya refugees as India is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention.
“If India had not signed the Convention against torture, would Indian authorities have carte blanche to torture and ill-treat anyone in custody?” said Bill Frelick, HRW's refugee rights programme director in a statement on Sunday.
Indian government says it is worried about the entry of refugees with links to Rohingya militants. "If that's the case, they should produce evidence and prosecute individual suspects," Frelick said.
"When your neighbour flees his burning house, you are not at liberty to push him back into the flames because you consider him a trespasser," he added.