The Rohingya Crisis and the Risk of Atrocities in Myanmar: An ASEAN Challenge and Call to Action
ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights
The longstanding persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Myanmar has led to
the highest outflow of asylum seekers by sea since the U.S. war in Vietnam. Human rights
violations against Rohingya have resulted in a regional human trafficking epidemic, and
there have been further abuses against Rohingya upon their arrival in other Southeast Asian
This protracted culture of abuse threatens Myanmar’s political transition, puts strains on
regional economies, and supports the rise of extremist ideologies that pose potential security
threats throughout the region. Ongoing human rights abuses against Rohingya pose a threat
to regional peace and security and must end.
Broader anti-Muslim rhetoric and violence has also flared up in locations across Myanmar
in recent years. These incidents, as well as ongoing abuses against ethnic minority groups
throughout the country, pose similar risks for Myanmar and the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations (ASEAN).
In April 2015, ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), an organization of
members of parliament from several ASEAN countries, conducted a fact-finding mission in
Myanmar. APHR is deeply concerned about the current dynamics there and how they affect
the region and the broader global community. APHR is equally concerned with the failure of
ASEAN nations to adequately respond.
Critical national elections in Myanmar are slated for the end of 2015. APHR has found an
alarmingly high risk of atrocities against Rohingya, other Muslims, and other ethnic minority
groups in the lead up to the election. These risks constitute a regional concern, not only due to
potential cross-border spillover effects, but also because ASEAN member states share a moral
responsibility to take all possible measures to prevent the commission of atrocities within
Despite these troubling realities, the Rohingya issue remains conspicuously absent from the
agenda of the ASEAN Summit. ASEAN and other global leaders ignore these dynamics at
their own peril. The Rohingya crisis and broader animosity toward other Muslims and ethnic
minorities in Myanmar are not just a Myanmar problem—they are an ASEAN problem.
Nearly every common risk factor for atrocity crimes identified in the United Nations’
Framework of Analysis for Atrocity Crimes is present in Myanmar today. This report draws
upon APHR’s collective knowledge to analyze the situation in Myanmar within the context of
this United Nations’ Framework. Based on this analysis, it is clear that there is a high risk of
ongoing atrocity crimes in Myanmar in 2015 and beyond.
Risk Factor 6: Absence of mitigating factors
But the absence of mitigating factors cannot be attributed to the Myanmar government alone.
The international community and ASEAN, in particular, have important mitigating roles
to play. Among the specific indicators of this risk factor is a “lack of interest, reluctance or
failure of United Nations Member States or international or regional organizations to support
a State to exercise its responsibility to protect populations from atrocity crimes, or to take
action when the State manifestly fails that responsibility” (6.9) and a “lack of support by
neighbouring States to protect populations at risk and in need of refuge, including by closure
of borders, forced repatriation or aid restrictions” (6.10).
(…) Read the full report here.