Dozens of current and former lawmakers from across Southeast Asia urged the policy-making body to ensure that its actions bring about a positive and sustainable change that contribute to ending the cycle of violence and displacement in Rakhine.
"While we welcome ASEAN playing a proactive role in the Rakhine crisis, there is so much more it can do to help bring it towards a resolution," an Indonesian MP and board member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) Mercy Barends noted in a statement, here on Wednesday.
"Importantly, it must recognize that this is more than a humanitarian issue and address it from all aspects, whether they are human rights, political, humanitarian, social or economic," Barends affirmed.
"It is time for ASEAN to articulate a coordinated and long-term strategy that addresses the root causes of this crisis. Failure to do so will risk causing further harm and suffering for the Rohingya and all other communities in Rakhine," Barends noted.
Three years since a brutal Myanmar military crackdown forced over 740 thousand Rohingya people to flee to refugee camps in Bangladesh, Myanmar’s government has yet to take firm steps to address the root causes of the crisis, according to the APHR.
Refugees continue to undertake perilous journeys by sea, while in Myanmar, some 600 thousand Rohingyas still face discriminatory restrictions imposed by the government, deprived of their rights to citizenship, freedom of movement, and access to essential services.
Furthermore, an escalating armed conflict between the Arakan Army and the Myanmar military endangers the safety of thousands of civilians from all communities, the MPs pointed out.
In their open letter, the lawmakers put forth several recommendations to the ASEAN on playing a proactive and positive role in resolving the crisis, including by promoting transparency in its decisions and ensuring meaningful consultation with the Rohingya and refugee communities, as well as with civil society actors.
The MPs also called on the ASEAN to bolster the capacity of its institutions to respond to "man-made disasters" such as the one in Rakhine State.
"Until now, the ASEAN has allowed the Myanmar government to dictate the terms of its engagement on the Rakhine issue, but this week’s ASEAN Summit presents the perfect opportunity to change course and use its political leverage with the Myanmar government to push for measures that bring meaningful change on the ground in Rakhine State," Barends stated.
"We urge the ASEAN to develop a strategy that listens to the people most impacted by this crisis, and most importantly, one that abides by the principle of ‘Do No Harm,'" Barends stated.
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