Rohingya exodus: 132 Asean MPs seek probe

Myanmar border guard police patrolling along the fence in the "no man's land" zone between Myanmar and Bangladesh, as seen from Maungdaw, Rakhine State, during a government-organised visit for journalists yesterday.
Myanmar border guard police patrolling along the fence in the "no man's land" zone between Myanmar and Bangladesh, as seen from Maungdaw, Rakhine State, during a government-organised visit for journalists yesterday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MPs, including two from Singapore, want Myanmar military to be brought to justice

SINGAPORE • More than 130 Members of Parliament from Asean nations, including two from Singapore, have demanded that Myanmar be investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC), the most united condemnation from the region since the violence began against the Rohingya a year ago.

In a joint statement released by Asean Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), the 132 sitting MPs from five countries called for the Myanmar military to be brought to justice for its "murderous operation in Rakhine State".

The countries of endorsing parliamentarians are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Timor-Leste. The two Singapore MPs are Mr Charles Chong and Dr Intan Azura Mokhtar.

Dr Intan told The Straits Times: "I strongly feel that any act of violence cannot be condoned, particularly if those acts of violence are persistently directed at groups of people of a particular ethnicity or religious faith and where they are not able to defend themselves.

"For more than 700,000 mostly Rohingyas to flee the Rakhine State into Bangladesh, it goes to show the extent of the violence targeted at them."

The Asean lawmakers called on members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to refer the situation in Myanmar to the ICC.

The Asean lawmakers urged the international community to support the calls of Ms Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, to establish an international accountability mechanism that aims to impartially investigate human rights violations there.

"Since Myanmar is not a signatory to the Rome Statute, the ICC does not have jurisdiction in the country and only the UNSC can trigger an investigation by the court," the statement said.

"One year has passed since the Myanmar military launched its murderous operation in Rakhine State, yet we are no closer to seeing those responsible brought to justice. As Myanmar is clearly both unwilling and unable to investigate itself, we are now at a stage where the international community must step in to ensure accountability," said APHR chairman Charles Santiago, a Member of the Malaysian Parliament.

The Myanmar military operation in Rakhine State was in response to attacks by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (Arsa) on police posts.

The crackdown forced more than 700,000 people to flee the country.

In Singapore, Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi in a lecture on Tuesday said the attacks last August were by the Arsa, which Myanmar says is a terrorist group.

"The danger of terrorist activities, which were the initial cause of events leading to the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine, remains real and present today."

The Asean lawmakers urged the international community to support the calls of Ms Yanghee Lee, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, to establish an international accountability mechanism that aims to impartially investigate human rights violations there.

  • Additional reporting by Fabian Koh

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2018, with the headline 'Rohingya exodus: 132 Asean MPs seek probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe