The ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR) released a new report, ASEAN’s Rakhine crisis: Assessing the regional response to atrocities in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, on 20 October 2020.
This extract below (APHR 2020, p. 46) offers a balanced view of a joint statement I made, as the Malaysian Representative to the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR), in response to the crisis:
Despite AICHR’s overall reluctance, or inability, to take a stand on the crisis, two representatives for Indonesia and Malaysia issued a joint statement on the eve of the 32nd ASEAN Summit in April 2018 in which they called for urgent action “to develop a ‘whole of ASEAN approach… to deal more effectively with the human rights and refugee crises emerging from Rakhine State”.197 The representatives went on to make several recommendations, in language believed to be more in-line with the “ASEAN Way” that might be more palatable to the bloc.198 Some interviewees told APHR that this statement pushed the boundaries of what AICHR representatives could do, however others saw it as confirmation of AICHR’s wider institutional weaknesses and failings.199 As noted in an assessment of AICHR by regional civil society organizations:
“The fact that even with its tardiness and glaring omissions, this joint statement is considered the most radical effort by AICHR representatives in the last decade towards protecting human rights, attests to the sorry state of this body.”200
For their part, even the two Representatives explicitly acknowledged the difficulties of raising the situation internally, stating that despite efforts, no consensus had been achieved. They concluded: “We have exhausted the possible avenues presently available within the AICHR.”201
198 Adopting the Myanmar government’s denial of Rohingya identity, the statement does not use the word “Rohingya” and fails to make any reference to human rights violations of any kind.
199 APHR interviews, May-July 2020.
200 FORUM-ASIA and SAPA, A Decade in Review: Assessing the Performance of the AICHR to Uphold the Protection Mandates (Volume 1), p. 49.