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Joint Statement: Human Rights Figures from the AICHR to Address Rakhine State of Myanmar Refugees

Signed by

H.E. Associate Prof. Dinna Wisnu, Ph.D, Indonesia’s Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) 2016-2018 and

H.E. Mr. Edmund Bon Tai Soon, Malaysia’s Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) 2016-2018

20 April 2018 – The Indonesian and Malaysian Representatives to the AICHR have called on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to urgently address the problems facing people leaving from and living in conflict situation in the Rakhine State of Myanmar with a ‘whole-of-ASEAN approach’ as a Community of Sharing and Caring Nations.

The call comes after on 3 April 2018, there were news about a boat carrying about 60 Rakhine-originated refugees, mostly women and children, entering the neighboring country in ASEAN. More boats are said to be on the way. It is also noted that United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) have identified assisting victims of trafficking from Myanmar and the increasing vulnerability of people in communities where the rule of law and fundamental social and economic systems are disrupted.

“We are extremely concerned that in spite of all the diplomatic and humanitarian efforts thus far, the situation has not been improving. Ironically it remains in the status of crisis and continues to affect the image of ASEAN that clearly it can no longer be contained by just one or few Governments. ASEAN must deal with the issue effectively and work together as One Community of Sharing and Caring Nations,” the Representatives said.

The Representatives commended the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) in doing what it can but noted that the problem should also be considered from a human rights perspective for a sustainable end to the conflict. “A transparent, on-the-ground, needs-assessment must now be done to not only provide aid but to ensuring the affected communities are offered effective protection. This would require Myanmar to share their situation in ASEAN Cross-Sectoral Meetings and for other member states of ASEAN through relevant Sectoral Bodies to suggest help, either in knowledge or resources, to end the problems facing the people in that areas.”

The Representatives regret that the issues affecting the Rakhine State has become been international talk with limited possibility for the neighboring countries of ASEAN to take part in ending the conflicts affecting the people. The representatives refer to the following commitments as the basis for moving forward together in unity to assist these people affected by the conflict:

  1. The 2015 Kuala Lumpur Declaration on a People-Oriented, People-Centred ASEAN where the heads of state/governments of 10 ASEAN member states agree to establish a people-oriented, people-centred and rules-based ASEAN Community where all people, stakeholders and sectors of society can contribute to and enjoy the benefits from an integrated and connected Community. In the declaration there is an agreement to continue to preserve Southeast Asia as a peaceful and prosperous region, free of conflict. Also an agreement to promote and protect the rights of women, children, youth and elderly persons as well as those of migrant workers, indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, ethnic minority groups, people in vulnerable situations and marginalized groups.

  2. The ASEAN Convention Against Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children (ACTIP), which has come into force in 2017 and has grown to have Plan of Action and Work Plans with agreements at the cross-sectoral level to combat human trafficking with human-rights based approach, by providing protection to victims and prevent the crime from occurring or spreading in the region.

  3. The 2018 ASEAN Chairman’s Statement on the Humanitarian Situation in Rakhine State where the foreign ministers of ASEAN expressed concern over the developments in Myanmar saying that the Foreign Ministers were prepared to support the Myanmar Government in its efforts to bring peace, stability, rule of law and to promote harmony and reconciliation between the various communities, as well as sustainable and equitable development in Rakhine State.

“The above commitments should be enhanced to allow further joint-collaboration across Sectoral Bodies in ASEAN to take part in making positive contribution to ending conflict in the Rakhine State. As concerned citizens and country representatives in the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), we consider it as urgent and important to issue the following joint-statement to enhance the positive work and inspire the next step of finding ASEAN common position on the human rights challenges that have affected parts of Myanmar. We acknowledge the urgency of the leaders in ASEAN to open ways for getting into a common position that the conflicts affecting Myanmar is affecting the people in other parts of ASEAN too,” said the Representatives.

The Representatives also reveals that there have been efforts within AICHR to bring up the issues, in informal ways and through Retreat in 2018, but unfortunately, no consensus to discuss it any further was found even when the AICHR Representatives from Myanmar has indicated the interest to share information on situation on the ground. “We have exhausted the possible avenues currently available within the AICHR, thus why we take the initiative to issue this statement as individual country representatives to AICHR. This statement is made given our commitment to ensure that ASEAN saves lives every day in this region,” reveals the Representatives.

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