ASEAN upholds its pillars of existence by categorically declaring that the aim of the Association of South-East Asian Nations is to accelerate economic growth, cultural progress and social development, as well as, ensure that there is equitable economic growth in the whole region of South-East Asia. Specifically emphasis on the cultural progress and stability, ASEAN has proved true to its mettle as it opened the doors to the massive Rohingya refugee crisis which is going on, and adjusting to focus on devising plausible methods to finally find a solution to it.
Addressing the Rohingya crisis, without directly naming it, formed most of the declaration of the 34th ASEAN Summit, which was held from 20th-23rd of June, in Thailand. The declaration stated the importance of and expressed support for the commitment to ensure safety and security for all communities belonging to Rakhine state. It also mentioned the facilitation of voluntary return of displaced persons in a safe, secure and dignified manner.
ASEAN Summit paid much needed attention to the ongoing Rohingya crisis in the Rakhine state, and urged Myanmar government to implement the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Office of United Nations Human Rights Council and United Nations Development Program. With Rohingya crisis attracting international attention towards the deplorable conditions of survival for them, this crisis has managed to become one of the most blatant incidents of human rights violation of the century.
ASEAN has started making significant efforts in ensuring that this crisis can be handled properly and the grief of those suffering can finally be lessened, so that the repatriation process of displaced persons from Rakhine state can be started. The growing predicament of the much-delayed process of restoration may take its own due course of time as the condition of survival and existence are below humane, largely affecting health and sanitation of Rohingya refugees.
ASEAN’s initiative in paying attention to this level of human rights violation is not only much appreciated but much needed as a guiding light is required for the sake of solving this long-drawn battle against humanity.
The conflict in the Rakhine and Chin states of Myanmar is worsening by the minute, as the intensity of conflict is increasing between Myanmar military and the rebel groups, with outright violation of rights and incidents of abuses against civilian population. It is estimated that the total number of people that have been displaced, owing to the conflict, are as high as 55,000.
The involvement of international communities in this crisis shows the dire need of justice which needs to be brought about in Myanmar, with victims receiving reparations for the harm that has been caused to them.
Stronger guarantees have to be ensured so that the lost faith and dwindled hopes are restored amongst Rohingyas. Involvement of an organisation closer to home makes this implementation easier, and that is why ASEAN’s role can be significantly highlighted. Countries under ASEAN region will have a larger role to play in persuasion, and allowing the paradigm shift to a more organised way of addressing the ongoing Rohingya crisis. ASEAN, as the leading and organisational power, will be able to play a more influential role in decision-making and mediating the conflict to understand the gravity of the situation.
ASEAN was established in order to overcome geopolitical tensions among the regions of South-east Asia and to have a negotiating ground upon which long-term, peaceful and sustainable decisions could be made. Myanmar’s socio-economic vulnerabilities are highlighted owing to the conflict that is occurring in the country, ASEAN’s ambitious promises of sustainable human rights and inter-regional peace and cooperation are being put through a crucial test with this. Myanmar’s case is an example of how ASEAN is strategising ways to deal with difficult situations, in making sure that the principle of non-interference is kept intact and capacity building mechanisms are put in place so that an effective solution can be jotted down and peace can be restored in Myanmar, after half a decade of turmoil.