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11 Sep, 2017

Indonesian MPs issue united call for immediate action to halt Myanmar atrocities in Rakhine State

JAKARTA, 11 September 2017 (ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights statement) — Indonesian lawmakers from multiple parties issued a joint call from the halls of Parliament today for an immediate end to atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, urging their own government to do more to help resolve the crisis, including by exercising regional leadership to get the issue on the ASEAN agenda.

“We are witnessing a humanitarian catastrophe on a scale unlike anything we’ve seen before unfold in Rakhine State. The numbers are staggering, and the suffering unconscionable. We cannot sit by and watch these atrocities proceed in our own backyard,” said Eva Kusuma Sundari, a representative from the Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) who also serves as a Board Member of ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR).

Nearly 300,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since the Myanmar military initiated “clearance operations” in northern Rakhine State on 25 August following an attack on police outposts by Rohingya insurgents. Tens of thousands of non-Muslims have also been forced from their homes as a result of the fighting. Satellite images depicts widespread burning of entire villages, and survivors have recounted horrifying stories of mass killings and sexual violence. Credible reports have also emerged that the Myanmar military is using landmines near the border with Bangladesh.

“The Indonesian government needs to devote more diplomatic resources to avert what likely amounts to ethnic cleansing. Increase the pressure on the Myanmar military to bring an end to the slaughter, the burning, and the mass displacement. Efforts should be targeted at Myanmar Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing, who is in charge of the security forces. He is the one with the power to end this horror,” Sundari said.

On 4 September, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi visited Naypyitaw, Myanmar, meeting with Min Aung Hlaing, as well as State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, de facto head of the civilian government, to discuss the situation. The same day, President Joko Widodo issued a statement calling for the international community to work together to address the humanitarian crisis. MPs said the moves were an important first step, but further action should be taken, including a push for ASEAN to take up the issue.

“Committing humanitarian aid is important, but our leaders must recognize Rohingya’s suffering will only cease when Myanmar security forces halt their attacks. Indonesia needs to fulfill its role as a regional leader by moving for the issue to be placed on the ASEAN agenda as a fundamental matter of regional peace and security,” Sundari added.

“ASEAN has been a force for peace in our region for many decades. If it fails to take up the Rohingya crisis now, though, it will be blocking an important opportunity to continue that legacy and putting the wider region’s security at risk. Indonesia must convince our fellow ASEAN nations of the implications of a failure to act,” said Akbar Faisal, a member of the House of Representatives from the National Democratic Party (Nasdem).

“This is not a religious issue. This is an issue of our fundamental humanity and our responsibility to one another as human beings,” added PDI-P MP Henky Kurniadi.

MPs called for the Myanmar government and military to commit to the implementation of recommendations of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, headed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, while urging the Indonesian government to support the process.

“We have the basis for a long-term resolution within the recommendations provided by Kofi Annan’s Commission. Getting to the root of the problem and addressing issues like citizenship and inter-communal tensions is a must. But first, the killings and mass displacement have to stop,” said Mahfudz Sidik, an MP from the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS).

Lawmakers said decades of persecution of Rohingya in Myanmar, as well as a persistent failure by previous military-backed governments to confront the underlying issues head-on, contributed to the current crisis.

“For years, Rohingya in Myanmar have faced state-sponsored persecution and the systematic and institutionalized stripping of their rights. Hundreds of thousands had already been displaced from their homes before the start of this crisis, and now we see the situation deteriorating to an unprecedented level,” said Yaqut Cholil Qoumas, an MP from the National Awakening Party (PKB).

“Denied freedom of movement and other basic rights, and rendered stateless by a citizenship law that prevents them – based solely on their ethnic background – from ever obtaining full citizenship, Rohingya are running out of time and hope for their future,” he added.

“The international community is more focused on the democratic transition and economic development than on stopping the killing, and the Rohingya community, along with other ethnic and religious minorities, are paying a heavy price,” said Kyaw Win, Executive Director of the UK-based Burma Human Rights Network (BHRN), who joined the lawmakers at the Indonesian Parliament to provide updates about the situation on the ground.

“Myanmar’s democratic reforms are being totally derailed by this violence. The killing must stop.”