Rohingya Arakanese Refugee Committee (RARC), formerly known as ARRC is the key refugee committee of the Rohingya refugees and asylum seekers in Malaysia, working for their welfare and advocating their causes to find permanent solution through effective and global initiatives
Rohingya Crisis: An Agenda for the Regional and International Communities
Dibya Shikha Research Intern, IReS, IPCS
During the 2014 ASEAN Summit in Naypyidaw, the first one to be held in
Myanmar, the plight of the Rohingya Muslims was left off the agenda. The
failure to discuss the issue and the deliberate attempts by Myanmar to
not recognise the Rohingyas in the recently held Census has once again
brought the uncertain fate of the Rohingyas to the forefront.
Approximately 1,40,000 Rohingyas have moved away from Rakhine state due
to large scale violence over the past two years. Although Rohingyas
started fleeing way back in 1978, the Myanmarese government’s decision
in March 2014 to expel humanitarian groups and prevent them from
providing health care and aid has increased the number of ‘boat people’
moving to countries like Bangladesh, Thailand and Malaysia.
In this scenario, what can the international community do for a durable
solution of the current impasse? What can the region do to pressurise
Myanmar to accept these de jure stateless people? What should Myanmar do to solve the Rohingya crisis?
What can the International Community Do? International law provides three solutions to refugee problems.
The first is voluntary repatriation, where refugees can safely and
voluntarily return to their country of origin. The International
community has repeatedly stated that the solution to the Rohingya
refugee issue is their voluntary return to Myanmar. However, without
altering the discriminatory policies in the Rakhine region, repatriation
will not be an effective and justifiable solution.
The second is local integration wherein through local, economic and
political processes refugees become members of the host society. No
neighbouring country is ready to accept the Rohingyas because it may
overburden their demography and economy.
The third is resettlement which suggests the permanent movement of
refugees to a third country. Some Rohingyas were sent to Canada,
Australia, Sweden and Norway from countries like Bangladesh. However,
these resettlement operations were shelved due to their limited size and
role as a ‘pull’ factor.
The international community, rather than focusing on refugee conventions
should pressurise the Myanmarese government to act on the
Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principle which calls on every State to
protect its population, regardless of ethnicity or citizenship, from
ethnic cleansing and other crimes against humanity. R2P also asks the
international community to act if the responsible government is unable
to do so.
If Myanmar does not taking serious action to improve the situation of
the Rohingyas, trade and economic sanctions should be enforced again.
What Can the Region Do? There should be an inter-regional solution for the forced
migration of Rohingyas. The countries affected by the fleeing of the
Rohingyas are in South and Southeast Asia; hence the solution should
come from a constructive regional engagement. In 2009, an important step
was taken by ASEAN countries through the platform of the ‘Bali
Process’, which was in tuned with the solutions provided by the
international law. This process was originally established in 2002 and
involved more than 45 countries committed to taking steps to combat
human-trafficking and related trans-national crimes in the Asia and
At the latest Foreign Ministers’ meeting of the Bali Process held in
April 2013, the Rohingya issue was not mentioned. The concept therefore
of a ‘regional arrangement for a regional problem’ started with much
fanfare but failed to achieve its intended target due to the
indifference of the member States. With the changing political culture
of the region, the Bali Process can prove to be a constructive platform
for solving the Rohingya crisis.
A regional solution is only achievable if states of the region start
sharing the burden. Although a permanent solution is voluntary
repatriation to Myanmar, for short-term and mid-term solutions, these
‘forced migrants’ should not be ‘pushed back’ or trapped in a vicious
cycle of arrest, detention and deportation in the host countries.
Myanmar’s Responsibility Resolving the Rohingya issue is political rather than
humanitarian; however, regional groups and the international community
have not been able to take a strong political stand against Myanmar.
Although Myanmar is undergoing a change after the formation of a
semi-democratic government, its attitude towards Rohingya Muslims has
not changed at all. Even pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi has not
made her stance on the issue clear.
Only Myanmar can solve this longstanding crisis by either amending or
repealing the 1982 Citizenship Law to recognise Rohingyas as an ethnic
group of Myanmar. A recent report
by Fortify Rights states that the policies of the Myanmarese government
restrict the Rohingyas’ "movement, marriage, childbirth, home repairs
and construction of houses of worship." Such discriminatory laws should
be immediately withdrawn to stop the further persecution of this
There is an urgent need for the international and regional communities
to remain firm in exerting pressure on the government of Myanmar to meet
its obligations under the R2P principle.