Malaysiakini Letter

Time for Asean to recognise Rohingya as an ethnic group

Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani
Published:  |  Modified:

LETTER | On behalf of all ethnic Rohingya, the Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia (Merhrom) welcomes the 34th Asean Summit 2019 that will be held in Bangkok from June 20 to 23.

The ethnic Rohingya hope something will be done to resolve our plight. We hope Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, who will lead the Malaysian delegation, will raise the plight of Rohingya during the summit. 

We believe Mahathir has the capacity to bring together all Asean member states and end the Rohingya genocide in the region. 

We are very thankful to the Malaysian government, which has hosted Rohingya refugees for many years. We hope the Malaysian government will help us by leading member states to end the genocide, which would also put a stop to human trafficking.

The Rohingya were made stateless by the Myanmar government, but we are a legitimate ethnic group. Recognition as such would pave the way for our plight to end.

During last year's summit, Asean states reaffirmed their commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Community Vision 2025 and the Leader’s Vision for a Resilient and Innovative Asean. 

Heads of member states also stressed the need to find a comprehensive and durable solution to address the root causes of the conflict and to create a conducive environment so that the affected communities can rebuild their lives. 

However, there has been no positive change in the situation in Arakan. The Rohingya continue to be victimised, especially after the fight between the Myanmar military with the Arakan Army (AA).

With the theme ‘advancing partnership for sustainability’, we hope Asean member states at the summit will give top priority to ending the Rohingya genocide. This is a very important step in achieving the Asean Community Vision 2025. 

How do we ensure that we are advancing partnership for sustainability when the Rohingya genocide is ongoing? We must put an end to this in order to foster economic and political cooperation in the region. 

We call on the heads of Asean member states, as well as foreign and women's ministers, to visit the largest Rohingya refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar and meet with refugees and get first-hand information. 

We hope that with that information, the Asean leadership can draw a permanent solution for the Rohingya in Arakan State. 

Repatriation is not the solution to the Rohingya genocide. Asean leaders must not agree to the plan to repatriate the Rohingya to Myanmar, as long as the genocide is ongoing. 

We must learn from the past repatriation by the Bangladeshi and Myanmar governments, where thousands were persecuted by the latter once they arrived in Arakan. Furthermore, this will only increase human trafficking and benefit syndicates.

Currently, there are many IDP camps in Arakan established in 2012, which primarily host ethnic Rohingya. 

The Myanmar government still cannot resolve this issue. Seven years have passed, but still the Rohingya cannot return to their homes. 

How are we going to repatriate over one million Rohingya refugees in Cox’s Bazar to Myanmar while the IDP issue remains unresolved?

In conjunction with World Refugee Day today, Merhrom calls upon the UN Security Council, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, world leaders and the international community to come together to end the Rohingya genocide. 

We must have the political will to do so. Otherwise, our efforts and resources will be wasted. We cannot wait any further as the Rohingya genocide is already at the last stage. 

We hope on World Refugee Day 2019, there is new hope for the Rohingya and the rest of the refugees around the world. 

We hope that together, we can fight the crimes against humanity and end the genocide in this century.

ZAFAR AHMAD ABDUL GHANI is the president of the Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organization Malaysia.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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