Myan­mar pres­sured over Ro­hingya cri­sis

‘Wide­spread, sys­tem­atic at­tack on a civil­ian pop­u­la­tion’

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Malaysia’s top diplo­mat turned the screws on Aung San Suu Kyi at emer­gency talks in Myan­mar yes­ter­day, warn­ing that an army crack­down on the Ro­hingya mi­nor­ity could spark a re­gional mi­grant cri­sis. More than 27,000 Mus­lim Ro­hingya have fled north­west­ern Myan­mar for Bangladesh since the start of Novem­ber to es­cape a mil­i­tary counter-in­sur­gency op­er­a­tion.

Myan­mar’s army says it is hunt­ing mil­i­tants be­hind deadly raids on po­lice posts in Oc­to­ber. But Ro­hingya sur­vivors have de­scribed rape, mur­der and ar­son at the hands of sol­diers-ac­counts that have raised global alarm and gal­va­nized protests around South­east Asia. The ex­o­dus has sparked a rare dis­pute within the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN), the 10-mem­ber bloc that prides it­self on con­sen­sus diplo­macy and non-in­ter­fer­ence.

Yes­ter­day, ASEAN for­eign min­is­ters held talks in Yangon on the cri­sis. Mus­lim-ma­jor­ity Malaysia called for an in­de­pen­dent ASEAN-led in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the al­le­ga­tions of army abuse. For­eign Min­is­ter Ani­fah Aman also urged full hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­cess to the locked-down area, where more than 130,000 peo­ple have been with­out aid for two months. He warned the crack­down could trig­ger a re­peat of last year’s boat cri­sis, when thou­sands of starv­ing Ro­hingya were aban­doned at sea by traf­fick­ers as they tried to flee south­wards to Malaysia.

“We be­lieve that the sit­u­a­tion is now of a re­gional con­cern and should be re­solved to­gether,” he told the meet­ing, ac­cord­ing to a state­ment from Kuala Lumpur. “Myan­mar must do more in try­ing to ad­dress the root causes of this prob­lem.” Yes­ter­day Amnesty In­ter­na­tional joined the con­dem­na­tion, say­ing the army’s “wide­spread and sys­tem­atic at­tack on a civil­ian pop­u­la­tion” may amount to crimes against hu­man­ity. Myan­mar’s more than one mil­lion Ro­hingya have been de­scribed as among the most per­se­cuted peo­ple in the world. More than 120,000 were driven by bloody sec­tar­ian clashes in 2012 into dis­place­ment camps, where they live in con­di­tions many have likened to apartheid.

New wave of anger

The lat­est crack­down in Myan­mar’s Rakhine state has gen­er­ated a fresh wave of public anger, par­tic­u­larly in Malaysia, where tens of thou­sands of Ro­hingya eke out lives as un­doc­u­mented work­ers. This month Malaysian Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak ac­cused Suu Kyi of al­low­ing “geno­cide” on her watch-an unusu­ally strong re­buke by one ASEAN state of an­other.

Myan­mar, which has ve­he­mently de­nied the al­le­ga­tions of abuse, an­grily sum­moned Malaysia’s am­bas­sador and banned its work­ers from go­ing to the coun­try. Suu Kyi also held talks with mainly Mus­lim In­done­sia this month af­ter can­celling a visit following protests and an at­tempted at­tack on the Myan­mar em­bassy.

At yes­ter­day’s talks min­is­ters warned of the risk of a “spillover ef­fect on Myan­mar’s neigh­bors in terms of se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity” from the Rakhine vi­o­lence, a diplo­mat told AFP. Min­is­ters also took aim at No­bel lau­re­ate Suu Kyi for not do­ing more to rein in the mil­i­tary, which still has a quar­ter of par­lia­ment seats and con­trols key levers of power in her elected gov­ern­ment. “Her hands are tied be­cause of the mil­i­tary, but she has to shoul­der her re­spon­si­bil­ity as a leader of Myan­mar,” said the diplo­mat, who asked not to be named.

Suu Kyi has pleaded for time and in­ter­na­tional un­der­stand­ing over the in­cen­di­ary is­sue. The Ro­hingya are re­viled in Bud­dhist-ma­jor­ity Myan­mar, de­nied cit­i­zen­ship and widely tagged as “Ben­galis”-or il­le­gal im­mi­grants from Bangladesh. In a state­ment af­ter yes­ter­day’s meet­ing Suu Kyi said talks were “can­did and trans­par­ent” but also “em­pha­sized the im­por­tance of strength­en­ing ASEAN unity and re­solv­ing the dif­fer­ences be­tween ASEAN fam­ily mem­bers”. Myan­mar has faced a cas­cade of crit­i­cism from out­side the re­gion over the Ro­hingya cri­sis, in­clud­ing from the United States and the United Na­tions. Last week, UN rights com­mis­sioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hus­sein crit­i­cized the gov­ern­ment’s “cal­lous” han­dling of the cri­sis, de­scrib­ing it as “a les­son in how to make a bad sit­u­a­tion worse”. — AFP

YANGON: In­done­sia’s For­eign Min­is­ter Retno Mar­sudi (L) and Myan­mar State Coun­selor and For­eign Min­is­ter Aung San Suu Kyi (C) at­tend the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) For­eign Min­is­ters’ meet­ing. — AFP

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