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Indonesian lawmakers speak up for Rohingya refugees at Aipa

By: - Reporter / @deejayapINQ
/ 07:37 PM September 19, 2017

Ethnic Rohingya children play on a pile of clothes donated by local residents at a temporary shelter in Langsa, Aceh province, Indonesia, Monday, May 18, 2015. Boatloads of more than 2,000 migrants – ethnic Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Myanmar and Bangladeshis trying to escape poverty – have landed in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand in recent weeks. (Photo by BINSAR BAKKARA / AP)

Of the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member states, only parliamentarians from Indonesia spoke up for Rohingya refugees in Myanmar during the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (Aipa) hosted by the Philippines.

The others, abiding by the regional bloc’s policy of noninterference, opted to keep silent on the humanitarian crisis after the contingent from Myanmar objected to the issue being taken up formally at the meeting, officials said.

In the joint communique issued at the end of the six-day meeting of Asean lawmakers, only Indonesia “expressed concern over the humanitarian crisis in the region and urged all parties to respect the rule of law, exercise maximum self-restraint and stop the ongoing violence against the Rohingya in Rakhine State.”

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“Based upon the Asean spirit of solidarity and unity, Indonesia supports the effort of the Government and Parliament of Myanmar to restore peace and stability, and provide security and assistance to all those in need irrespective of ethnicity, race, religion and belief,” the statement said.

Indonesia also encouraged Myanmar to implement the recommendations of the United Nations Advisory Commission on Rakhine State and to open the country to humanitarian assistance and to be observant of international humanitarian law in addressing the refugee crisis.

In a press briefing, Filipino lawmakers, along with leaders from Singapore and Thailand, took pains to explain why the Rohingya crisis was not discussed.

Deputy Speaker Ferdinand Hernandez said: “Based on rules of Aipa, every rule that has to be made has to be based on consensus. There was an objection on the part of Myanmar, therefore there was no consensus. On that basis, there was no discussion on issues on the state of Rakhine.”

“There was no discussion at all of all political matters,” Hernandez said.

But Isra Sunthornvut, the Thai secretary general of Aipa, said there was a “heated debate” before consensus was reached among the AIPA delegates;

“But in the end, no matter how heated the debates go, there has to be adherence to the rules,” he said.

Singapore Deputy Speaker Lim Biow Chuan, head of the Singapore delegation, said the right tack might be to allow Myanmar to sort out its internal issues for now.

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“This is an evolving situation,” he said. “What we don’t want to do is complicate the situation which may or may not be helpful. Let’s give everyone some time.”

Ways and means committee chair Dakila Cua cited the Asean’s policy of noninterference, the same policy that led to the regional bloc’s silence on touchy issues affecting each member, including extrajudicial killing of drug suspects in the Philippines. /atm

Check out our Asean 2017 special site for important information and latest news on the 31st Asean Summit to be held in Manila on Nov. 13-15, 2017. Visit http://inquirer.net/asean-2017.

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TAGS: AIPA, ASEAN, Rakhine State, Rohingya Muslims
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