Monday, January 21, 2019 | ePaper

Dhaka must involve ASEAN nations for early Rohingya repatriation

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MALAYSIAN Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Sunday asked the ASEAN nations to take tough measures for creating pressure on Myanmar and its de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi to end atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims. More than 720,000 Rohingyas have fled Myanmar's strife-torn Rakhine State to Bangladesh since August last year, following a heavy-handed clearance operation by the Myanmar military that claimed thousands of lives. All the UN investigations found enough evidences that the Myanmar government was supportive of the ethnic cleansing. What's more significant is that, Mr Mahathir has accused the ASEAN countries of their failure to resist its member state (Myanmar) from committing the crime against humanity. We think, his call to stop the Myanmar military's atrocities is highly important.
The United Nations has dubbed the onslaught by the Myanmar military as the "textbook example of genocide". During the anti-Muslim operation; the Rakhine residents faced arson, torture, gang rape and murder and many were forced to flee their homes. The UN called for Myanmar Generals to face the International Criminal Court or an International Tribunal on the charge. Mr Mahathir said the ASEAN has to learn how to bring pressure on governments that are not treating their own people with fairness and justice. Though Naypyidaw had constituted several committees to address the crisis in Rakhine, Suu Kyi was criticized for delaying action and doing little to tackle the problem at its roots.
Recently, thousands of Rohingya refugees staying in Bangladesh have refused the repatriation plan fearing their safety. Predominantly Buddhist Myanmar does not seem to want them back. Countless Rakhine Muslims to escape violence have also taken risky journey across the Indian Ocean to South-East Asia and sought asylum in Indonesia and Malaysia. The bold statement of Mahathir Mohamad is encouraging to us as we have to bear the pain of sheltering over one million Rohingyas. Dhaka should take a massive diplomatic initiative to convince the ASEAN nations to pressurize Myanmar for early repatriation of the persecuted Rohingyas to their ancestral land.

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