Pressure mounts on Suu Kyi over Rohingya

The plight of the Rohingya is attracting increasing attention within Asean. Source: YouTube

The British foreign affairs minister, Boris Johnson, is due in Myanmar today where he will reportedly press Aung San Suu Kyi to end the persecution of Rohingya Muslims and allow aid groups to reach refugees.

The UK government has been reluctant to blame its former resident Suu Kyi for the persecution of the Rohingya in troubled Rakhine State. She has relatively limited influence in border area compared with the military.

More significantly Johnson is due to raise the Rohingya with the military’s commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing.

Britain’s Foreign Office minister Alok Sharma told the UK parliament: “Clearly it is the army that is acting in the areas where there are humanitarian issues.”

The junta-drafted 2008 Constitution gives the military control of the three most powerful ministries: home, defence and border affairs and 25 per cent of parliamentary seats, allowing it to veto constitutional changes.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation’s special envoy to Myanmar, Syed Hamid Albar, has said the UN should act to stop a repeat of Cambodia or Rwanda.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) intends to send a delegation to Myanmar’s Rakhine State to investigate the persecution of the Rohingya, according to Malaysia.

Malaysia is becoming increasingly vocal when criticising Myanmar over the Rohingya issue, breaking with the Asean tradition of avoiding internal issues. Malaysia has said the crisis could no longer be regarded as a domestic matter because it was fuelling an exodus of refugees that could cause regional instability. Indonesia has also offered to help mediate in the crisis.

A resolution issued after an emergency meeting of the OIC’s foreign ministers discussed the crisis and called on Myanmar to accept the delegation. The authorities deny most foreigners access to the conflict-hit border with Bangladesh. The statement called on Myanmar to establish the rule of law, attempt to resolve the crisis, allow refugees to return and “unimpeded and unconditional access” to aid.

The Rohingya say hundreds of civilians have been killed since October and satellite pictures show thousands of houses have been burned down.

An estimated 65,000 refugees have been driven across the Bangladeshi border since October, according to the UN.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said: “In order to ascertain the reality of it, why not receive an independent team to assess whether what has been said really happened or it is just mere propaganda. In actual fact, it is good for them.”

Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Razak called on Myanmar to end the violence and warned that militants like Isis could infiltrate the Rohingya.

Najib demanded the right to freely deliver aid to the Rohingya and for their safe return.

“This must happen now… the government of Myanmar disputes the terms ‘genocide’ and ‘ethnic cleansing’, but whatever the terminology, the Rohingya cannot wait,” Najib added.