Atrocities against Rohingyas: Asean ministers for prosecuting the culprits
Southeast Asian foreign ministers have urged Myanmar to prosecute those responsible for the brutal military crackdown on Rohingyas and give full mandate to an inquiry commission to hold accountable those responsible for the violence in Rakhine.
The ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), who met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly on September 29 in New York, expressed grave concern over the violence, Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told his country's parliament yesterday.
"We expressed our grave concern with these alleged acts of violence that have led to loss of life, injuries, destruction of homes, and displacement of a large number of people.
"And to be brutally honest, this is a man-made humanitarian disaster and something which should not be happening in this day and age," he said.
The foreign ministers have urged the Myanmar government to give a full mandate to the independent inquiry commission, established by the government, to probe and hold the people responsible fully accountable, Balakrishnan said.
Myanmar had set up the commission in July to probe allegations of human rights abuses in Rakhine. The commission includes two local and two international members from Japan and the Philippines, reports Reuters.
The 10-member Asean, formed more than half a century ago, has historically struggled with challenges facing the region because it works only by consensus and is reluctant to get involved in any matter deemed to be internal to any of its members.
The group's recent statements on Rakhine have focused on the repatriation of displaced persons to Myanmar and reconciliation among communities.
The details of the violence have been stated in the 444-page report released by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission last month.
The Singapore minister called upon the Myanmar government to implement more of the recommendations of a UN Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, saying they would address the root causes of the crisis.
Balakrishnan said the next "key milestone" that Asean wanted to see in the crisis was the repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar.
"Specifically what we said last week to Myanmar was that we expect the voluntary repatriation to begin soon and Asean stands ready to help facilitate that in any way possible."
Meanwhile, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission yesterday urged the governments of Myanmar and Bangladesh to immediately start the repatriation of more than 700,000 Muslims who fled from Rakhine to Bangladesh, the Myanmar Times reported yesterday.
"I urge that the best thing for both sides is to quickly implement the MoU," commission Chair U Win Mra said. "Rather than saying who is not implementing and who is delaying, if both sides implement the MoU effectively and quickly, initiatives can be started for their return," said U Win Mra, chairman of the commission.
He was a member of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, led by late UN secretary-general Kofi Annan, which was tasked with finding a sustainable solution to the Rakhine crisis.
About the advisory commission, the Singapore foreign minister said the proposed measures were aimed at reducing poverty among the Rohingyas, improving their basic rights and promoting trust, harmony and reconciliation between the Rohingyas and the broader Myanmar society.
"We need circumstances in which there are opportunities for reconciliation, for assurances of justice and equality and, ultimately, for better prospects for all communities.
"Otherwise this long-term, inter-communal, complex situation will fester, and if this festers it will create more opportunities for extremism and, ultimately, terrorism, which will not respect boundaries and will represent a clear and present threat throughout South-east Asia and beyond," Balakrishnan said, according to a report of The Straits Times.
The minister said Asean cannot compel Myanmar to take any steps.
"But what we can do is through moral suasion, through persuasion, through transparency and keeping this on the agenda and also telling the Myanmar government that we want and hope for a long-term viable, good outcome and Asean stands ready to help."
The responsibility for resolving the crises must lie with the government of Myanmar, he added.
The members of Asean are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia.