Lawmakers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) did not adopt a unified stance on the killing and displacement of over 400,000 Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar but expressed deep concern over the humanitarian crisis.
Asean lawmakers issued a joint communique during the conclusion of the 8th Asean Interparliamentary Assembly on Tuesday, the same day that Myanmar’s State Counsellor and Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi appealed for global help in resolving the Rohingya crisis.
The joint communique issued at the end of the 38th AIPA Assembly showed that Indonesia, through its Deputy Speaker E. Dr. Fadli Zon, “expressed concern over the humanitarian crisis in the region and urged all parties to respect the rule of law, exercise maximum self- restraint and stop the on-going violence against the Rohingya in Rakhine State in Myanmar.”
Indonesia added that “based upon the Asean spirit of solidarity and unity, Indonesia supports the effort of the government and parliament of Myanmar to restore peace and stability, and provide security and assistance to all those in need irrespective of ethnicity, race, religion and belief.”
It encouraged Myanmar to “implement the recommendations of the UN Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, open their country to humanitarian assistance and to be observant of international humanitarian law in addressing the refugee crisis.”
“There was a resolution introduced by Indonesia regarding the humanitarian issue in Rakhine [where Rohingya’s reside]. However, based on the rules of AIPA, every decision has to be a consensus, and there was an objection on the part of Myanmar. There was no consensus so on the basis of that, there was no decision on this issue involving the violence and humanitarian crisis there,” Deputy Speaker Ferdinand Hernandez of South Cotabato, Philippines who served as the Chairman of the Joint Communique panel, said in a news conference.
“While AIPA’s policy is non-interference in domestic affairs, it is important to consider the draft resolution cited by member countries. The [AIPA] resolution will come out if all 10 member countries, including Myanmar, are amenable to it. But while it (resolution on Rohingya) was not adopted, each representative of member countries expressed our deep concern for the situation,” 38th AIPA General Assembly Chairman and Rep. Dakila Cua of Quirino said.
Deputy Speaker Lim Biow Chuan of Singapore said AIPA needs to give Myanmar time to address the Rohingya crisis.
“We have to give them some time to resolve this issue. This is an evolving situation. We don’t want to complicate it by making comments which may or may not help them,” Lim said.
He gave assurances that Asean lawmakers are not turning a blind eye on the plight of the Rohingya Muslims.
“All member states’ legislators were equally concerned. We will do what needs to be done and convene on the matter; consider it [for resolution]. We just find it appropriate at this stage, especially that the State Counsellor [Suu Kyi] already spoke about it, that we give Myanmar the space and time to resolve it,” Lim added.
Isra Sunthornvut, secretary general of the Asean Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) shared the sentiments the Singaporean lawmaker.
“Before we reached the consensus [on not adopting a resolution], there were heated debates. That is how parliament works and that is how parliament is supposed to be. We bring out arguments based on reason, facts and evidences, before we go to the final vote,” Isra said.
“But AIPA members understand the rules, and we adhered to the rules that it should be amenable to 10 countries, not nine or majority,” Isra added.