ASEAN leaders must urge Myanmar to implement genuine reform
Bekasi (ANTARA) - Before the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ’s) May-23 deadline for Myanmar to file first report in the Rohingya genocide case, regional parliamentarians urged Myanmar to act promptly to end discriminatory restrictions against the minority group.

ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) noted in a statement received in Jakarta on Friday that authorities should also safeguard all civilians in the ongoing war in the states of Rakhine and Chin.

"We have yet to see any credible evidence of Myanmar taking steps to improve the situation for Rohingya. Those in Myanmar are still living in apartheid conditions and subject to the same -- if not worse -- restrictions they have lived under for years now, including those on their freedom of movement and access to health, education, and livelihoods. After all the pressure that Myanmar has faced on this issue, how are we still at this point?" Member of Parliament in Malaysia and APHR Chair Charles Santiago emphasized.

During the preliminary ruling of the Gambia v. Myanmar case on Jan 23, the ICJ ruled that there is a serious risk of genocide against the Rohingya.

The court ordered Myanmar to apply provisional measures to prevent all acts of genocide, including “killing members of the group,” “causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group,” “deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part,” or “imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group”. Moreover, it necessitates Myanmar to preserve evidence of crimes that could amount to genocide. These provisional measures are legally binding and require Myanmar to provide a report on their progress by May 23 and a follow-up every six months thereafter.

On April 8, Myanmar had issued two presidential directives in response to the provisional measures. President Directive No. 1 of 2020 orders “all Ministries and all Regions and States Governments” to ensure that its staff, military or security forces, and others under its control “do not commit” acts defined in the Genocide Convention, while Directive No. 2 of 2020 prohibits “all Ministries and the Rakhine State government” from destroying or removing any evidence of genocidal acts.

"The Myanmar government’s directives, while a positive start, mean nothing if no concrete measures are being implemented on the ground to dismantle the system of apartheid and discrimination against the Rohingya. If Myanmar is serious about complying with the ICJ order, an absolute start point must be lifting the government-imposed internet blackout in Rakhine and Chin states," Santiago stated.

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All civilians living in Rakhine State are caught in the midst of the intensifying conflict between the Tatmadaw and Arakan Army, in which hundreds have been killed and wounded, and over 157 thousand people displaced. Amid a telecommunications blackout in Rakhine, the Tatmadaw excluded Rakhine State from their recently announced four-month unilateral ceasefire aimed at tackling the COVID-19 pandemic.

APHRR has called on the ASEAN to urge Myanmar to protect civilians in the conflict and tackle the root causes of the crisis by adopting a rights-based approach that is in accordance with international standards. To achieve this, recommendations from the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State should be implemented, and the ASEAN must urge Myanmar to cooperate with international accountability mechanisms to ensure justice for the Rohingya.

"We are talking about the most severe crimes under international law. After decades of oppression, violence, and restrictions on the rights of the Rohingya, the international community cannot continue to watch the Myanmar authorities act with impunity. It may be years before the ICJ comes up with a final judgment. In the meantime, ASEAN leaders must urge Myanmar to implement genuine reform,” Chamnan Chanruang, an APHR member and former Thai MP, remarked.
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Reporter: Azis Kurmala
Editor: Fardah Assegaf
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