Joint Statement on the Rohingya Crisis from the SAPA Working Group on ASEAN


    A strong response from the ASEAN demanding that Myanmar cease the continued persecution of the Rohingya is urgently required. The continuing practice of ASEAN member states of the principle of non interference  in the internal affairs of member states is at the cost of human rights and lives of people in the ASEAN.

    The  SAPA working group on ASEAN representing  national and regional  of civil society organisations in the ASEAN region met in Bangkok from the 27-28th of May 2015.

    On the eve of the Special Meeting on Irregular Migration organized by Thailand with 17 states invited to attend,  we express our hope that the meeting would pave the way for viable durable solutions to address the protection needs of people found adrift in the Andaman sea and recognizing that this has been an ongoing long term problem.

    The recent crisis on the Andaman sea where  thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshis were adrift  for weeks has created international uproar. The initial reaction of states in the region was shocking, preventing the disembarkation of the people in the boats on their territories. Many lives could have been saved, had the first response been one of search and rescue.

    We support the actions of Malaysia and Indonesia which have now offered disembarkation and temporary protection to those rescued at Sea as well as conducting search and rescue operations.

    Thailand has fallen short of basic international norms in its response by indicating that it will not allow any disembarkation and protection to those rescued at sea. Thailand’s offer of providing food, water and basic health checks is too little, too late.

    While several countries including the United States, the Philippines,  the Gambia,  and Ecuador have shown leadership in supporting efforts to find durable solutions, we are dismayed by Australia’s vehement opposition to assisting its ASEAN neighbours to provide protection to people at sea, and its unwillingness to support durable solutions for those for those who have been rescued.

    WE  reiterate that all people have the right to request and receive humanitarian assistance and international protection. This includes in the context of rescue at sea and interception at sea operations. All rescue at sea and interception operations must ensure access to territory and to full and fair asylum procedures for those who express a need for international protection. No refugee should be penalized because of the way that she or he entered a country. Reception arrangements for those rescued at sea must also be in line with international standards.

    Furthermore, all authorities involved in border and immigration management must treat all persons with dignity and respect, and in accordance with their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law. Practical protection safeguards are required to be put in place that take into consideration the differentiated protection requirements of people in mixed migration movements particularly those of children, women, elderly, and persons with disabilities.

    We underline that this humanitarian crisis should not be viewed in isolation. The root causes of the Rohingya exodus relates directly to the persecution they face in Myanmar especially the  1982 Citizenship Act that takes away citizenship  of the Rohingya and the sectarian violence that has been instigated by Buddhist nationalists with impunity. The confiscation of temporary ID cards from 300,000 Rohingya and the recent passage of the 4 bills in particular the population control bill and Buddhist women special marriage bill are reflective of the escalating state sponsored persecution of the Rohingya.

    A strong response from the ASEAN demanding that Myanmar cease the continued persecution of the Rohingya is urgently required. The continuing practice of ASEAN member states of the principle of non interference  in the internal affairs of member states is at the cost of human rights and lives of people in the ASEAN. The international community have obligations to pressure Myanmar to immediately stop the persecution of the Rohingya.


    Recommendations to States

    1. Provide people rescued immediate access to humanitarian assistance, especially vulnerable women and children, with adequate food, water, health care, shelter and sanitation.
    2. Allow and facilitate access by humanitarian agencies and international organizations with protection mandates.
    3. Ensure that people rescued at sea are not penalized for the way they have entered the country.
    4. Procedural transparency and accountability to affected persons is assured such that they are accorded due process of law and are fully informed of their rights and responsibilities and the limitations and time frames of any proposed solution.

    To the ASEAN

    1. All ASEAN member states should respect the principle of non-refoulement
    2. Those in need of international protection should be given access to asylum procedures
    3. We urge that ASEAN states to respect the principle of non-discrimination in dealing with people rescued at sea.
    4. We urge ASEAN state to take leadership and work with other affected countries in the region to find durable solutions with processes that draw input from affected persons.
    5. Urgently develop regional and national solutions that address the root causes of refugee and migrant outflows.
    6. We urge ASEAN member states to sign up to the 1951 convention on the status of Refugees and its 1967 protocol.
    7. We urge the AICHR and ACWC to address the human rights violations on the Rohingya in Myanmar with utmost urgency.

    To the Myanmar State

    1. Myanmar must take urgent steps to stop the persecution of the Rohingya including the repealing the 1982 Citizenship Act and other discriminatory laws and practices to ensure that all persons have rights and equal access to citizenship and are not discriminated against on grounds of ethnicity and religion
    2. Provide protection to all people living in Rakhine State, end impunity, prosecute all perpetrators of violence and other abuses through a fair judicial system, arrange for immediate release of those who have been arbitrarily detained and provide adequate redress to all victims of violence and injustice.
    3. Provide unhindered access to national and international humanitarian actors and media to all parts of the Rakhine state.
    4. We urge the Myanmar state to promote reconciliation and peace building efforts in order to build greater tolerance and cooperation among Myanmar’s diverse population particularly the Rakhine at all levels.

    Organisation/s Involved

    SAPA Working Group on ASEAN
    Altsean Burma
    ASEAN SOGIE Caucus
    Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network (APRRN)
    Burma Partnership
    Child Rights Coalition-Asia (CRC – Asia)
    Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID)
    People’s Empowerment Foundation (PEF)
    Pusat Komas
    South East Asian Committee for Advocacy (SEACA)
    Towards Ecological Recovery and Regional Alliance (TERRA)
    Think Centre

    For media queries, please contact:
    Mr Anoop Sukumaran, Asia Pacific Refugee Rights Network
    Tel:+66 2 252 66 54