ASEAN Needs to Act Urgently on Myanmar Military Violence in Rakhine State

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By Charles Santiago

APHR Chairperson

MP, Malaysia

This is the time to act, or we would have another Cambodia in our backyard.

The Burmese military has resorted to carrying out deadlier attacks than last October, following retaliation from Rohingya militants who say they are responding to the ongoing persecution against the Rohingya by the military.

According to reports, 77 Rohingya and twelve members of the security forces have been killed.

Some unverified reports also say that the military has armed Rakhine Buddhists, a claim that can descend Burma into a civil war, if true.

We are however, already seeing photographs and video clips of butchered Rohingya and burning villages.

There are also eyewitness accounts from Maungdaw, saying that the Burmese military has entered villages and is burning homes, properties and shooting people dead.

It’s clear that the Burmese security forces care two hoots about respecting the rule of law and protecting human rights and fundamental freedom of civilians, even if it has to curb attacks from militants.

While the strongly-worded response from United Nations Secretary-general António Guterres expressing concern about escalating tensions in the region is welcome, it’s now time for ASEAN to intervene.

It’s time for member countries to shelf the archaic non-interference policy and warn Burma to stop the killings.

It would be tempting for even countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, which has condemned the persecution against the Rohingya before, to not push any harder.

Or for other ASEAN countries to focus on their internal problems.

And of course for some members to buy into State Counsellor,Aung San Suu Kyi’s, ridiculous claims that the Rohingya are burning their own homes.

But the violence perpetrated by the Burmese military has huge consequences for the region.

This new cycle of violence and killings – dubbed the last stages of genocide – would not just wipe out the Rohingya from Burma but also force thousands to flee, giving rise to more incidences of trafficking, corruption involving high-ranking officials and crime.

Not to mention blood on our hands if we made no effort to stop the massacre of the Rohingya now.