The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, Thursday (June 23) expressed his appreciation for Malaysia’s increasing leadership on the crisis in Myanmar, and urged States in the region to adopt a similar approach to the human rights catastrophe unfolding under military rule.
“Too much is at stake for Myanmar and its people to accept complacency and inaction by the international community,” Andrews said in a statement at the end of an eight-day visit to Malaysia.
“The military’s attacks on the people of Myanmar constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes. No one has been spared the impact of the military’s violence.”
Andrews said that even before the coup, the Myanmar military had committed atrocities against the people of Myanmar. “The Rohingya faced genocidal attacks by Myanmar security forces. I have learned that there are over 104,000 registered Rohingya in Malaysia who have fled from Myanmar seeking safe haven with untold numbers who are unregistered.
“My mission here provided me with a unique opportunity to sit face to face with dozens of courageous men and women and children .who fled the horrors that have engulfed many areas of Myanmar, including those who have recently arrived in Malaysia. They provided me with firsthand accounts of what they witnessed or directly experienced. These stories, without exception, emphasized the terror that is raging across the country
“A young woman told me: ‘You are walking on a path that you don’t know, towards a place you don’t know, and you could die on the way but you still go forward, because the persecution is worse behind you’.
Those who fled Myanmar also told Andrews about the challenges they faced in Malaysia, citing fears of being sent to migration detention, insufficient education opportunities for their children, and instances of extortion by police officers.
Malaysia not only recognizes this fact, it has been willing, through the words and actions of Foreign Minister Saifuddin, to challenge ASEAN to reexamine their current policy on Myanmar, the UN expert said, adding that Foreign Minister Saifuddin had called on ASEAN to move from a policy of “noninterference” to, in his words, one of “non-indifference”.
“Malaysia has given voice to the obvious fact that after more than one year, nothing has moved and since nothing has moved, more people are being killed and more people are being forced to flee the country,” Andrews said.
He has not only called for ASEAN to engage with the Myanmar National Unity Government, he has begun engaging with the National Unity Government’s Foreign Minister Zin Mar Aung, Andrews said.
“I look forward to working to support Malaysia’s foreign policy leadership on Myanmar, to affirm the human rights of a people under siege and to reduce the incredible scale of human suffering in Myanmar.”