HRWG strongly condemns the acts of mass violence by the military, security forces, and Myanmarese militia groups against the Rohingya ethnic minorities in Myanmar, as well as the violent acts by the armed Rohingya group who call themselves Al Yaqin (Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army—ARSA) against civilians. HRWG deeply regrets the existence of the Myanmarese government—Aung San Suu Kyi as Myanmar’s State Counselor—who is unable to do much to stop the violence. The acts of violence show that the Myanmarese government, specifically the military, refuses to cooperate with the international community to resolve the crisis and human rights abuses that are occurring in the Rakhine state. Hence, the international community must present a firmer, more serious stance towards the Myanmarese government. The ending of crime and acts of terror is legitimate for every nation, but the responsibility to protect civilians in a situation of conflict is also a state obligation.
Regarding the issue of the Rohingya, HRWG welcomes the Indonesian government’s approach towards internal conflict resolution that has been carried out since the rise of mass violence against the Rohingya minority group in 2012, which was in an effort to resolve the Andaman regional crisis (Rohingya refugees in ASEAN territorial waters), to the reoccurrence of violence at a smaller scale in October 2016.
However, our view is that the Indonesian government must further strengthen their diplomatic approach to the conflict resolution that has been carried out, not only to the Myanmarese government but also to military groups in Myanmar that are often beyond the government’s control. Humanitarian aid and the cessation of mass violence is a pressing need at this moment, but ensuring that Myanmar solves the Rohingya issue and does not use repressive approaches are also things that should be done. If not, cases of violence against the Rohingya will continue to occur without a permanent solution.
Besides that, HRWG also regrets the fact that the Myanmarese government does not cooperate with the international community (UN) that has established a Fact Finding Mission for cases of violence and alleged crimes against humanity that occurred in the Rakhine state in March 2017. Conversely, the resistance raised, with the application of the security and violence approach, actually leads the situation in the Rakhine state to worsen, causing a myriad of casualties from the civilian population. The Advisory Committee, led by former UN Secretary General Koffie Annan, has formed several important recommendations related to the root of the problem—namely, discrimination and citizenship—to be implemented by the Myanmarese government and supported by the military.
Within the international community, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) is unable to do much to suppress this problem because, factually, the Myanmarese government refuses to cooperate, and there are still limitations within the ASEAN mechanism for internal conflict resolution that have regional impacts. The Indonesian government holds an important diplomatic role that has been accepted by the Myanmarese government, along with showing bilateral cooperation with the Myanmarese military a number of times. In regard to that, maximising Indonesia’s diplomatic role with the Myanmarese government is one of the current actions that can be carried out immediately in order to stop non-sustained violence and build an agreement to prevent future occurrences. If not, the Indonesian government’s efforts will be limited to “extinguishing the fire” instead of resolving the root of the problem.
Discrimination against the ethnic Rohingyas has occurred for decades, especially since the 1980s when the Myanmarese military junta officially removed the Rohingya ethnicity from the list of official list of ethnicities existing in Myanmar via the Constitution and Citizenship Act. In fact, throughout the early days of Myanmar’s independence, the Rohingya was one of the ethnic and racial groups that was recognised, within both the Constitution and in legislation. From the 1980s until now, the Rohingya have experienced a serious human rights violation by the government, starting from the violence and repressive approaches by the military and security forces, mass violence by vigilante groups in Myanmar, to the imposition of a Bengali identity as immigrants from Bangladesh. Until now, hundreds of thousands to a million ethnic Rohingyas remaining in the Rakhine state still do not have a citizenship status, do not have access to public services, are discriminated against by state policies, and are vulnerable to violence from the military and even civilians.
With the above description, HRWG states:
- The Myanmarese government must immediately end their militaristic and violent approach towards the Rohingyas in the Rakhine state as an international commitment that must be fulfilled. In addition, the government should immediately run an investigation regarding the violence that has occurred, bringing perpetrators to legal proceedings in order to prevent ongoing violence. The Bengali government should also be urged to provide protection towards displaced people from the Rohingya ethnic group that enters Bengali territory.
- The Myanmarese government should allow humanitarian aid to be given to the victimised Rohingya community—both to those who remain in the Rakhine state and to internally displaced people in surrounding areas.
- In line with that, we urge the Myanmarese government to cooperate with the international community, in this case the UN Fact Finding Mission, to investigate the violence that has occurred and resolve the issue of the Rohingyas as a whole.
- Implementing the recommendations issued by the Advisory Committee headed by Kofi Annan on the 24th of August 2017 would include making a concrete effort to cease the segregation between the Buddhist and Rohingya Muslim communities in the Rakhine state, ensuring humanitarian aid for victims in the Rohingya community, providing citizenship rights towards ethnic Rohingyas and revising the 1982 Citizenship Act, carrying out the process of law enforcement for human rights violations, and ensuring freedom of speech and freedom of movement for the Rohingya community.
- The Indonesian government must further their diplomatic efforts, both bilateral and regional, to push the Myanmarese government to cease the occurring violence, withdraw security and military personnel from ongoing operations, prioritise dialogue to solve the crisis in Rakhine, and cooperate with the UN Fact Finding Mission.
Jakarta, 4 September 2017
Muhammad Hafiz, Executive Director HRWG (081282958035)
Rafendi Djamin, Senior Advisor HRWG (081311442159)
Choirul Anam, Senior Advisor HRWG (081296480839)