ASEAN urged to act over Rohingya genocide

As the bloc meets in Bangkok, MERHROM president says the time for just talking is over
ASEAN urged to act over Rohingya genocide

Rohingya children walk on sewage pipes at Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh on Sept. 13. It is the largest refugee camp in the world with about 800,000 residents, mostly Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar. (Photo by Munir Uz Zaman/AFP)

A Rohingya leader has urged Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states to help end the genocide against the Muslim minority in Myanmar.

Zafar Ahmad Bin Abdul Ghani, president of the Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia (MERHROM), made his appeal before the start of the 35th ASEAN Summit in Bangkok on Nov. 1.

He said the United Nations and ASEAN had both failed to stop the long decades of genocide and crimes against humanity.

The theme of the four-day summit in the Thai capital is “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability.”

“How do we expect to advance a partnership for sustainability when the Rohingya genocide is ongoing in ASEAN and affecting member states and the rest of the world?” Ghani asked.

“The Rohingya genocide has resulted in hundreds of thousands of Rohingya men, women and children being killed, raped, tortured, imprisoned and trafficked and exploited over the years, resulting in death and torture by human traffickers in neighboring countries.

“Nothing has changed despite thousands of reports being published, thousands of testimonies from genocide survivors being recorded and thousands of visits to the largest refugee camp in the world.”

Ghani said the situation in Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, is becoming worse day by day as the security of about 800,000 refugees is neglected.

“Who is responsible for the safety and security of the Rohingya, especially women and children, in the refugee camps who are vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation?” he asked.

“Everyone is pushing for the Rohingya to return to Myanmar even though they know nothing is guaranteed. The Bangladesh government pushing the Rohingya to move to Bashan Char [island] where their safety is questionable.

“All these actions only push the vulnerable Rohingya into exploitation by human traffickers, drug traffickers and others who can benefit from the lives of the Rohingya.”

He said ASEAN member states must review their relationship with Myanmar and question whether it is ethical to continue business with a country that has committed genocide against an ethnic minority.

The UN has created many conventions, resolutions and declarations only for them to be broken, he said.

“We have come to the stage where we are numb to crimes against humanity. We have let it happen in front of our eyes for many decades. We watch the Rohingya dying each day without justice being done for the victims and action being taken against the perpetrators. We are in a state of denial until we stop the genocide,” Ghani said.

The repatriation of Rohingya to Myanmar is not the solution to the Rohingya genocide, he said as he called on ASEAN to ensure a stable regional and global environment for sustainability.

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“We appeal to the Thai government to release all Rohingya refugees from their detention camps and prisons and allow them to stay and work to meet their daily needs until the genocide is over,” Ghani said.

“We ask for the intervention of the UNHCR regional office in Bangkok to intervene to protect the rights of the survivors of genocide.

“The Rohingya genocide marks the black history of ASEAN and the world. How do we develop ASEAN’s economy and stability without ensuring the safety and security of the ASEAN community? It is obvious that we need moral leadership to stop genocide and sustain the stability, peace and prosperity of ASEAN and the rest of the world.”

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