Asean backs Rohingya return
Chiang Mai: Foreign ministers from the 10 Southeast Asian Nations yesterday pledged to continue providing humanitarian assistance to Myanmar over the Rohingya crisis and called for the repatriation process to take place as soon as possible.
"We received a briefing from Myanmar on the humanitarian situation in Rakhine State and had a fruitful discussion on the issue where we agreed on the importance of Asean's role," said the statement from the two-day Asean Foreign Ministers' Retreat in Chiang Mai that ended yesterday.
The event was the first ministerial-level event held under Thailand's Asean chairmanship to discuss the region's priorities and direction this year.
Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai said Asean was committed to helping Myanmar solve the humanitarian crisis and has commissioned the Asean Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) to play a role in providing assistance to Myanmar and its displaced people.
"We endorsed the sending of the Needs Assessment Mission of the AHA Centre to Myanmar to support the Myanmar government in its repatriation process and hope that it takes place as soon as possible," said the statement.
While backing Myanmar to resolve the issue, the statement also urged a commission be established by Myanmar's government to "seek accountability by carrying out an independent and impartial investigation of alleged human rights violations and related issues".
It also called for "a comprehensive and durable solution" to address the root causes of the crisis.
More than 700,000 refugees have fled violence in Rakhine State since August 2017 when militants allegedly attacked Myanmar security outposts, prompting a clearance operation enforced by the military.
While the UN and United States raised concerns over these actions, which some have called "genocide" against the Rohingya, Asean has refrained from making any judgement and commented only on the need for a humanitarian approach.
Aside from Rohingya issue, the ministers also discussed the South China Sea situation, including negotiations between Asean and China on drafting a code of conduct to manage tensions over the disputed waters.