Asean Leaders Hold Off From Demanding Citizenship for Rohingyas
(Bloomberg) -- Southeast Asian leaders held back from collectively demanding that Myanmar provide citizenship for Rohingyas even as some member nations sought more rights for the persecuted minority group.
The region’s leaders had faced pressure from rights groups ahead of their biannual meeting this weekend to take a tougher stance on Myanmar, including holding the military accountable for the atrocities committed. The nation has also been criticized for failing to ensure the safe repatriation of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims forced into Bangladesh.
"We stressed the importance of and expressed our continued support for Myanmar’s commitment to ensure safety and security for all communities in Rakhine State as effectively as possible and facilitate the voluntary return of displaced persons in a safe, secure and dignified manner," the leaders said in a joint statement after the summit in Bangkok.
Malaysia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Saifuddin Abdullah had earlier called for justice to be brought to the perpetrators of the Rohingya crisis, and said the repatriation process should include citizenship for them, the Malaysian foreign ministry said in a Twitter post on Saturday. There are some 730,000 displaced Rohingyas, and citizenship for them is something Myanmar’s government has long refused to do.
Asean’s leadership pledged to "go further" with recommendations made in a report by the Asean Coordinating Center for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management that offers a plan for capacity building and the provision of basic services for the repatriation.
The United Nations and others have accused Myanmar’s military of murdering thousands of Rohingya Muslims in western Rakhine state since 2017 with genocidal intent.
Myanmar’s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi participated in the weekend’s summit. The military has repeatedly denied committing atrocities against the Muslim minority, dodging accusations that include gang rapes, murder and torching whole villages.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, speaking on the sidelines of the Bloomberg Asean Business Summit in Bangkok on Friday, vowed to help Rohingya Muslims seeking refuge in Malaysia. He said on Sunday that the Rohingyas should be consulted as they return.
“I raised the issue of Rohingya and many reports don’t take into account the views of the migrants, the refugees,” Mahathir said. "It is a must that their views are considered because they feel afraid to return to Rakhine state. And we hope that if they return, the international community can supervise and ensure that when they come back, they wouldn’t be subjected to certain actions by Rakhine state and Myanmar.”
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