Rohingya rights activists have termed Sunday’s ASEAN declaration on the Rohingya crisis, as lacking teeth and spine.
They urged the Southeast Asian grouping of leaders to set a timeline for Myanmar to settle the refugee crises.
"Timeline is the most crucial thing in solving Rohingya crisis because Myanmar government is well-known for its deception and not keeping commitments. We wanted ASEAN to be more concrete with timeline," European Rohingya Council Chairman Hla Kyaw told Anadolu Agency on Monday.
The declaration of the 34th ASEAN Summit held on June 20-23 in Thailand said: "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."
Avoiding the word "Rohingya" ASEAN declaration added: "We looked forward to the full implementation of the MoU between Myanmar Government, the Office of the UNHCR and the UNDP and to the continued and effective dialogue between Myanmar and Bangladesh to facilitate the repatriation process of displaced persons from Rakhine State."
Kyaw, while welcoming the declaration of the ASEAN Summit, said he was not satisfied, as it has stopped short of listing any concrete measures.
Imtiaz Ahmed, a professor at Dhaka University, who has authored a book on the Rohingya, however, said the ASEAN declaration would put extra pressure on Myanmar on the Rohingya repatriation issue.
"After this declaration, now we hope that a new law will be enacted by Myanmar authorities changing the old [controversial 1982 Citizenship Law] so that Rohingya people get confidence about their safety and dignity after repatriation," Ahmed said.
Encouraging Myanmar to implement the remaining recommendations of the final report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, the ASEAN declaration added: "We also reaffirmed ASEAN’s support for Myanmar’s efforts to bring peace, stability, the rule of law, to promote harmony and reconciliation among the various communities as well as to ensure sustainable and equitable development in Rakhine State."
Ahmed said Myanmar should immediately provide citizenship rights to those Rohingya still living in a restricted environment mainly in Rakhine so that those who had migrated, could be encouraged to return.
He said the ASEAN members, especially Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and even Brunei, have expressed support to the peaceful Rohingya repatriation. "Now, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s upcoming visit to China where she would discuss Rohingya repatriation and the declaration of ASEAN, will put extra pressure on Myanmar," Ahmed said.
He added that Myanmar mainly depends on China’s veto power. "But China knows very well that if they want [long-term] economic benefit in Myanmar as well as in this region, they have to solve the Rohingya crisis."
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, escaped Myanmar and crossed over into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added./aa