Asean Must Act to Help Rohingyas In Myanmar, Komnas HAM Says

By webadmin on 09:19 am Jul 30, 2012
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Rangga Prakoso, Ulma Haryanto & Markus Junianto Sihaloho

The National Commission on Human Rights and lawmakers have asked the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to help end the alleged slaughter in Myanmar of minority Rohingya Muslims.

Ifdal Kasim, chief of the commission known as Komnas Ham, said on Sunday that his office had sent a letter urging the Asean human rights commission to quickly gather its members so that concrete steps could be taken to end the mass killings of Rohingyas.

“The Asean commission must speak and call a meeting so we can take immediate action,” Ifdal said. “They have the authority to do so.”

Ifdal said the killings severely damaged Asean’s human rights image on the global stage and should not be viewed as Myanmar’s domestic affair. “The killings are already a regional problem,” he said.

Separately, the National Awakening Party (PKB) issued a statement calling for Asean and the United Nations to intervene.

Hanif Dhakiri, the secretary of PKB’s faction at the House of Representatives, said the events in Myanmar constituted a gross human rights violation and the systematic destruction of the Rohingyas.

“That’s why the PKB demands that the UN actively get involved to stop the massacre,” he said.

Hanif called on Asean to quickly hold an emergency meeting to decide how to respond to the issue.

Predominantly Buddhist Myanmar does not recognize the Rohingyas as citizens, saying they migrated from Bangladesh during British colonial rule. Bangladesh has also disavowed the group, saying they are Myanmar’s problem.

Amnesty International has reported that hundreds of Rohingyas have been killed, raped, beaten and arbitrarily arrested since Myanmar declared a state of emergency in northern Rakhine state, on the border with Bangladesh.

Myanmar opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi last week called for laws to protect the rights of the country’s ethnic minorities in her inaugural address to the country’s fledgling Parliament.

The ongoing violence has driven Rohingyas from their homes in Myanmar’s northern and western states, and they have turned up in waves as asylum seekers and refugees in neighboring Southeast Asian countries, including Indonesia.

Asean secretary general Surin Pitsuwan said last week that the association was seeking an explanation from member state Myanmar about the recent ethnic violence targeting the Rohingya group.

The explanation, he said, would be given at the United Nations headquarters in New York in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

Surin said the Asean secretariat had held talks with Myanmar’s foreign minister, U Wunna Maung Lwin, but added: “We haven’t heard anything specific or concrete on the matter.”

Meanwhile, Indonesian charity organization Rapid Relief Action (ACT) dispatched a lone mission on Sunday to visit Rohingya refugees in camps in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

“We will be represented by Andhika Purbo Swasono, who departs this afternoon,” ACT spokesman Feri Kuntoro told the Jakarta Globe on Sunday. “He will conduct a field assessment on the needs of the refugees.”

Andhika was originally scheduled to depart with a medical professional, Rio Pranata, but Rio’s visa was not approved. “We want to represent Indonesia’s humanitarian diplomacy,” Feri said. “Last year we were the first team from Indonesia to go to Mogadishu [in Somalia].”

Neither President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono nor Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa have spoken out on the killings in Myanmar, although both are known for their quick comments on issues relating to human rights.

Many observers have said they are holding their comments because they fear criticism would derail Myanmar’s democratization progress.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Michael Tene only said, “We hope that the commitment from the Myanmar government for national reconciliation continues.”