Southeast Asian lawmakers demand Myanmar be referred to ICC

A year on from start of Rohingya crisis, international community must step in to ensure accountability, they say
Southeast Asian lawmakers demand Myanmar be referred to ICC

In this file photo taken on Nov. 30, 2017, Rohingya refugees wait at a relief center at Balukhali refugee camp in Cox's Bazar. With a repatriation plan in tatters and funding evaporating for a million refugees with ever-growing needs, Rohingya Muslims who fled Myanmar to Bangladesh face a grim future one year after the latest eruption of a decades-old conflict. (Photo by Ed Jones/AFP)

Southeast Asian lawmakers have called on the international community to hold Myanmar officials accountable for atrocities committed against Rohingya Muslims which began in the country's Rakhine State a year ago.

A statement released by 132 sitting MPs from five countries — including 22 members of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) — on Aug. 24 called on the U.N. Security Council to refer suspect Myanmar officials to the International Criminal Court (ICC).

Charles Santiago, chairman of the APHR and a Malaysian MP, said one year on from the beginning of the crackdown the international community must move to do something.

"As Myanmar is clearly both unwilling and unable to investigate itself, we are now at a stage where the international community must step in to ensure accountability," Santiago said in an APHR statement.

Lawmakers also urged member states of ASEAN including Indonesia, which will take a seat on the UNSC next year, to press the Myanmar government and military "to end all forms of human rights violations against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities."

On Aug. 9, Myanmar said an earlier request by the ICC prosecutor to seek jurisdiction over the mass deportation of Rohingya from the country was meritless and should be dismissed.

State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi's office said that Myanmar rejects the proposition that the court has jurisdiction as proposed by the prosecutor in the request.

"Myanmar also disagrees with the prosecutor's assertion that population displacement across a national boundary is an essential element of the crime of deportation," Suu Kyi's office said.

The ICC only has jurisdiction over crimes committed by state parties who are a part of the founding treaty — the Rome Statute, of which Myanmar is not a member. Only the U.N. Security Council can refer the situation to the ICC for further criminal investigation.


Security intensifies in northern Rakhine

Aug. 25 marks the first anniversary of the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacking police posts in Rakhine State. The attacks triggered the Myanmar military's crackdown that forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh.

Security has tightened in northern Rakhine with hundreds of police, border guard forces and military being deployed amid rumors spread that ARSA will conduct more attacks in the region.

Numar, a Rohingya from Pan Taw Pyin village near Maungdaw town, northern Rakhine, said hundreds of security forces have been deployed around the village over the past three days. He said security forces have checked all the homes in his village, looking for suspects with links to ARSA.

"The news about an ARSA attack is just rumor. How can ARSA attack the region amid such tight security?" Numar told

Hla Tun Kyaw, a lower house MP for the hard-line Buddhist Arakan National Party in Maungdaw constituency, said people need to be alert to the possibility. "No one knows exactly whether a ARSA attack will happen this year," Hla Tun Kyaw told

Suu Kyi said the results of past terrorist activities have created the current humanitarian crisis in Rakhine. The risk of more terrorist acts occurring, she said, remains real and present.

"Unless this security challenge is addressed, the risk of inter-communal violence will remain," she said in a lecture in Singapore on Aug. 21. "It is a threat that could have grave consequences, not just for Myanmar but also for other countries in our region and beyond."

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