UN expert: Rohingyas want and deserve safer, more peaceful lives

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Tom Andrews urges Indonesia to play bigger role in resolving Rohingya crisis

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, wrapped up a nine-day mission to Indonesia on Wednesday by calling for coordinated action by Indonesia and others to address the deepening crisis in Myanmar.

He expressed his appreciation to Indonesia for its support to the people of Myanmar and urged the country to play a bigger role in resolving the crisis both as current Chair of Asean and as a leader in Southeast Asia and on the world stage.

“I came to Indonesia because the human rights situation in Myanmar is dire and getting worse, and because I believe that Indonesia is positioned to play a critical role in the resolution of this crisis,” Andrews said in a statement released at a news conference in Jakarta.

“I’m worried that the deepening crisis in Myanmar has become invisible to much of the world, and that some governments are beginning to think that the junta’s tyranny is inevitable. This narrative is exactly what the junta wants and needs to prevail,” he said.

In meetings with Indonesian and Asean officials during his visit, Andrews noted that the world was looking to Indonesia and Asean for leadership in resolving the Myanmar crisis.

“There are two different time zones when it comes to Asean and the crisis in Myanmar: one being the reality of the people of Myanmar who face daily attacks by junta forces and rapidly deteriorating conditions. The other is the world of Asean officials who caution that progress could take years, even decades,” the Special Rapporteur said.

“The people of Myanmar do not have decades nor years – some do not even have days – for the junta to be held accountable,” he said.

Andrews called on Indonesia to show continued leadership on Myanmar not only for the remainder of its Asean chairmanship, but beyond.

“It is time to consider alternative options to break the deadly stalemate. I urge Asean to take measures to hold the junta accountable for its grave human rights violations and blatant disregard for implementation of the Five-Point Consensus. Even if Asean remains deadlocked, Indonesia should work with allies to isolate the junta and reduce its capacity to attack the people of Myanmar,” the expert said.

During his mission, Andrews traveled to Aceh Province and visited a Rohingya refugee camp in Pidie District, where he heard directly from Rohingya who undertook dangerous boat journeys across the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea and disembarked in Indonesia.

“What was overwhelmingly apparent is the extreme vulnerability of refugees with whom I met. Fleeing atrocity crimes in Myanmar, and facing increasingly dire conditions in Bangladesh, they carry with them deep trauma. They want and deserve a safer, more peaceful life.”

“The Rohingya refugees recounted their harrowing experiences at sea. A woman told me that over 20 persons died on her boat and that they had to throw the bodies overboard. Another woman cried as she recalled the lack of food and water, and how she had to give her child seawater to drink,” Andrews recalled.

The expert said he was inspired by the widespread empathy for Rohingya among Acehnese fishermen, local civil society groups providing aid and services, and UN staff working with the refugees.

Andrews cautioned, however, that there remain many challenges for Rohingya refugees in Indonesia and the region.

“Responsibility for the rights of the Rohingya, including their right to redress as survivors of atrocity crimes, rests primarily with Myanmar. But it also extends to the countries where they seek refuge and to the broader international community,” said Andrews.

He emphasized that Indonesia is well-positioned to play a global leadership role to defend and support the Rohingya.

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