Activists, Researchers Call on Indonesian Gov't, Asean to Help Resolve Rohingya Crisis

Activists and researchers on Sunday (03/09) issued a joint statement urging the Indonesian government to continue its diplomatic efforts to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar. (Reuters Photo/Darren Whiteside)

By : Sheany | on 5:51 PM September 04, 2017
Category : News, Human Rights, Foreign Affairs

Jakarta. Indonesian activists and researchers on Sunday (03/09) issued a joint statement urging the Indonesian government to continue its diplomatic efforts to resolve the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, and called on all Southeast Asian countries to take in Rohingya refugees, as violence continues against the world's most persecuted minority.

"Considering the escalating tensions in Rakhine State, the government of Indonesia must step up diplomatic efforts to push Myanmar to stop human rights violations against the Rohingya," the statement said.

The activists said the government should urge Myanmar to accept a fact-finding mission, established by the United Nations in March 2017, to investigate the crisis, expose human rights abuses and bring the perpetrators to justice.

"Inexistence of serious efforts to solve the crimes against humanity will only prolong the suffering of the victims," the statement said.

Clashes between Myanmar security forces and militants have escalated since Rohingya insurgents attacked police posts and an army base on Aug. 25, which led to the deaths of around 400 people and nearly 90,000 Rohingyas escaping the deeply divided Rakhine State.

The international community has widely condemned the Myanmar military and government for the atrocities.

The statement was endorsed by chairman of the UN fact-finding mission on Myanmar Marzuki Darusman, National Commission on Violence Against Women (Komnas Perempuan) commissioner Magdalena Sitorus, Amnesty International Indonesia director Usman Hamid and Center for Strategic and International Studies director Philips Vermonte.

The activists also said that neighboring Bangladesh "must open its doors for the victims and ensure their safety at refugee camps."

Amnesty International Indonesia also called on all countries within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations "to accept Rohingya refugees and provide them with proper shelters."

Despite strong calls for unity and cooperation on its 50th anniversary, Asean has not issued any statement on the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar.

The current situation in Myanmar's Rakhine State may test Asean's effectiveness in combating crimes against humanity and how well it can utilize the regional bloc's mechanisms to put human rights front and center, and realize its vision of an Asean-centered regional community.

"Asean, as we can see with East Timor [when it broke away from Indonesia], tends to be weak. Indonesia can urge Asean to be more proactive, as this is a regional issue," Philips said during a press conference on Sunday.

He warned there is a possibility that the conflict may escalate to more than just an issue of where to put Rohingya refugees, and said this can be the right time to see how much Myanmar trusts Indonesia and Asean.

Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi is expected to meet Myanmar's state counselor and de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, in Myanmar on Monday to discuss continued efforts to assist the Rohingyas and provide them with protection and humanitarian aid.

Retno's visit is part of a series of efforts from the Indonesian government to resolve the crisis in Rakhine State, which include a humanitarian assistance program launched by the foreign ministry on Thursday.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo on Sunday stressed the importance of "real action" to address the humanitarian crisis, following mounting calls on the Indonesian government to give more assistance to the Rohingya — a predominantly Muslim ethnic group.

Indonesians have been flooding the country's mainstream and social media with expressions of anger and frustration regarding the continued violence, which has led to increasing tensions about the issue domestically and complications in foreign affairs.

Tyranny of the Majority

According to Philips, the Rohingya crisis in Rakhine State is not a problem exclusive to Myanmar. There are many cases of one or more majority groups trampling the rights of the minorities across the globe.

"Every country has its Rohingya," Philip said.

Indonesia is not a stranger to deep divisions along ethnic and religious lines, with the most recent prominent example being the mass rallies by radical Muslim groups clamoring for former Jakarta Governor Basuki "Ahok" Tjahaja Purnama to be jailed for blasphemy.

There are many marginalized communities in Indonesia, where Muslims make up 87 percent of the population of roughly 250 million.

Magdalena said any attempts at conflict resolution in Myanmar must take a holistic approach, noting that both women and children are especially vulnerable in such dire situations.

Show More