Malaysia's com­mit­ment to end Ro­hingya cri­sis pays off

World needs to keep close watch on repa­tri­a­tion MoU that will be signed with Bangladesh

New Straits Times - - Front Page -

SUU Kyi un­der pres­sure to guar­an­tee refugees's safe re­turn and stop per­se­cu­tion.

IT ap­pears that Malaysia’s in­ces­sant ef­forts to get the world to put pres­sure on Myan­mar has worked. State Coun­sel­lor Aung San Suu Kyi agreed on Mon­day at the Asean ple­nary ses­sion that there is a need for a longterm so­lu­tion to the Ro­hingya cri­sis. She has promised to sign a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing (MoU) with Bangladesh to repa­tri­ate Ro­hingya refugees back to Rakhine State. Malaysia and the rest of Asean, we hope, will keep a close eye on how she keeps this prom­ise. The devil will be in the de­tails. Europe, the United States, the United Na­tions and in­ter­na­tional hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tions have brought the rum­ble in Rakhine prov­ince within their ken. Even US Con­gress­men Steve Chabot and Joseph Crow­ley are keep­ing a close watch.

Some 600,000 Ro­hingya had fled to Bangladesh since Au­gust, tak­ing with them their heart-rend­ing sto­ries of al­leged rape, mur­der and burnt ba­bies. Close to 500,000 have fled to other coun­tries much ear­lier un­der sim­i­lar atroc­i­ties said to be com­mit­ted by the mil­i­tary and civil­ian mobs. The Ro­hingya have been re­pressed and marginalised for too long. The world is fi­nally wak­ing up and mak­ing all the right noises. It is bet­ter late than never. Suu Kyi has long crit­i­cised Malaysia’s sup­port for the Ro­hingya as in­ter­fer­ence in the coun­try’s in­ter­nal af­fairs. But, in an edi­to­rial in Thai­land’s news­pa­per The Na­tion, which she wrote on July 13, 1999, she said: “In this day and age, you can­not avoid in­ter­fer­ence in the mat­ters of other coun­tries.” The irony must have been lost on her. Malaysia’s com­pas­sion­ate con­cern for the Ro­hingya can­not amount to in­ter­fer­ence in Myan­mar’s af­fairs, but if she saw it that way, we are glad Malaysia did what it did.

Now that Asean has ac­cepted Suu Kyi’s prom­ise, we hope Myan­mar will hence­forth cease all forms of atroc­i­ties against the Ro­hingya who are still in the coun­try. Any sign of harm, bru­tal or oth­er­wise, against the Ro­hingya ei­ther by the mil­i­tary or other ex­trem­ist ele­ments will sig­nal in­sin­cer­ity on her part. Clear­ance op­er­a­tions by sol­diers or mobs must be stopped im­me­di­ately to en­sure the safety of the in­ter­nally-dis­placed. An­other im­me­di­ate mea­sure that Suu Kyi needs to take is al­low ac­cess to in­de­pen­dent factfind­ers, es­pe­cially now that the mil­i­tary is ex­on­er­at­ing it­self from any atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted against the Ro­hingya.

The world needs to keep a close watch on the MoU to be signed with Bangladesh. Myan­mar must not be al­lowed to sign a lop­sided agree­ment that only favours the in­ter­ests of the coun­try’ mil­i­tary or mobs. Given the dire sit­u­a­tion that Bangladesh is in, it may very well be forced to sign away the rights of the Ro­hingya just to re­lieve it­self of the bur­den of host­ing them. We know Malaysia will not watch this in si­lence, but nei­ther should the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. No Ro­hingya must be kept out of Myan­mar or de­nied cit­i­zen­ship. They must be guar­an­teed safe re­turn to their home­land. And, in dig­nity, too. Any­thing less will harm the cause of Myan­mar and Suu Kyi’s prom­ise.

No Ro­hingya must be kept out of Myan­mar or de­nied cit­i­zen­ship. They must be guar­an­teed safe re­turn to their home­land. And, in dig­nity, too.

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