Asean ministers raise heat on Burma’s Rohingya crisis
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Asean ministers raise heat on Burma’s Rohingya crisis

DESPITE its principle of non-intervention on domestic issues, Burma’s (Myanmar) Asean neighbours have called on the country to ensure full accountability on those responsible for the atrocities against the Rohingya minority.

During an informal meeting in New York on Sept 29, Singapore’s Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said the ministers from the group called on the Independent Commission of Enquiry appointed by the Burmese government to be “given a full mandate to investigate, and to all those responsible, fully accountable.

According to Kyodo news, Balakrishnan said Asean is awaiting a report from the commission and is particularly interested to hear feedback from its two independent members from Philippines and Japan, as “both of them have reputations for being fiercely independent.”

SEE ALSO: Malaysia wants Burma’s commanders probed for ‘atrocities’ against Rohingya 

“We expressed our grave concern with these alleged acts of violence,” he was quoted as saying.

“To be brutally honest, this is a man-made humanitarian disaster and something which should not be happening in this day and age.”

The Asean ministers also called on Burma and neighbouring Bangladesh, where some 700,000 Rohingyans to help fled to since violence erupted in August last year, to help facilitate the return of refugees to their native Rakhine state.

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Rohingya refugees arriving by boat at Shah Parir Dwip on the Bangladesh side of the Naf River after fleeing violence in Myanmar. September 12, 2017. Source: Adib Chowdhury/AFP

“The responsibility for resolving this must lie with the government of Myanmar, and this is a responsibility that we will hold them to account,” Balakrishnan said.

“They do need to do the right thing for all the vulnerable, defenceless and innocent victims.”

A fact-finding mission by the UN found evidence of ethnic cleansing and accused Burma’s military of genocide. The final report, released last month, documented patterns of gross human rights violations and abuses that included killing indiscriminately, gang-raping women, assaulting children, and burning entire villages.

The UN investigators called for Burma’s army general Min Aung Hlaing and five generals to be prosecuted for genocide and crimes against humanity, among others.

SEE ALSO: Burma staged ‘well-planned’ atrocities against Rohingya, says US State Dept  

The military has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has remained largely silent on the atrocities.

The Nobel laureate has received widespread criticism for being complicit in the military’s brutal crackdown.

Balakrishnan said a long-term political solution was needed to resolve the crisis.

“Specifically, what we said last week to Myanmar was that we expect the voluntary repatriation to begin soon, and Asean stands ready to help facilitate that in any way possible.