Looking for 'Asean way' in Rohingya crisis

Looking for 'Asean way' in Rohingya crisis

In the end, whether the Rohingya are 'refugees' or 'displaced persons', they are not coming back to Myanmar. (Reuters photo)
In the end, whether the Rohingya are 'refugees' or 'displaced persons', they are not coming back to Myanmar. (Reuters photo)

In Asean's search for a role in the maze that is the political and humanitarian disaster unfolding from Myanmar's Rakhine crisis, it is finding that some paths are closed off, a few remain passable despite barriers -- and others are clear but way too risky to head into.

Asean is no stranger to being criticised for inaction. But the challenges thrown up by Myanmar's crisis are not only unique, but undesired by a grouping that believes it has been able to understand that nation through decades of "constructive engagement" and thus has a much stronger connection to it than non-Asean countries.

Can Asean show results from its quiet diplomacy versus others' megaphone diplomacy? What new approach can it pull from its hat, given the credibility it built with Myanmar after it coordinated international help after Cyclone Nargis in 2008, to respond to this especially uncomfortable situation?

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Johanna Son

Founder/editor of the Reporting ASEAN series

Johanna Son is founder/editor of the Reporting ASEAN series.


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