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ASEAN parliamentarians warns of looming regional crisis over Rohingya

Ethnic Muslim Rohingya migrants, believed to have come from Myanmar and Bangladesh, on an abandoned boat drifting in the Andaman Sea close to Malaysia, southern Thailand, 14 May 2015. Photo: EPA

October 17, 2015

The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights group is warning the Rohingya crisis could get worse.

Increasingly marginalized and desperate, Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine State are being forced to flee in ever-greater numbers, exacerbating a regional crisis that ASEAN leaders are woefully ill prepared to cope with, APHR warned on October 16. 

“ASEAN met to discuss the refugee crisis in May, but lamentably avoided a much-needed discussion of its underlying drivers, which are rooted in Rakhine State,” APHR Chairperson and Malaysian MP Charles Santiago said. “ASEAN leaders are burying their heads in the sand, and it’s going to come back to bite them.”

At the release of their latest report, “Disenfranchisement and Desperation in Myanmar’s Rakhine State: Drivers of a Regional Crisis,” APHR warned that exclusionary government policies, including mass disenfranchisement of Rohingya ahead of November’s historic general election, is exacerbating the already intense sense of desperation within Rohingya communities.

APHR cautioned that the region’s failure to respond in any meaningful way to the impending catastrophe has been unfortunately predictable, but governments will be forced to stand up and take note soon when sailing season begins again. Unless ASEAN addresses the situation in Rakhine State directly, more Rohingya will continue to try and leave the country by any means necessary, the group said.

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