KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 3 — Member states of Asean should stop deporting Myanmar refugees and asylum seekers, the Malaysian Advisory Group on Myanmar said today.
Its chairman Tan Sri Syed Hamid Albar urged Asean members to take immediate measures to protect those fleeing Myanmar, whether they were UNHCR card holders or not, on humanitarian grounds.
The former Malaysian minister said the crisis in Myanmar is expected to deteriorate further this year, and that the United Nations foresees 17.3 million people in the Indo-Chinese region will need humanitarian assistance.
“According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Myanmar’s conflict caused 1.5 million people to flee their homes as of 26 December 2022, with 1.2 million being newly displaced inside the country since the February 2021 coup, including over 250,000 children,” he said in a statement.
He said that schools and hospitals continue to be targeted, and children are further endangered by being used as human shields.
“Most of the internally displaced are in the northwest and southeast regions. The conflict hampers efforts to find durable solutions for the displaced and renders any effort for safe, dignified and voluntary repatriation of Myanmar refugees, including Rohingya, impossible,” he said.
Syed Hamid urged Asean to assert stronger pressure on the Myanmar military to immediately cease violence against its citizens.
He said that immediate and unhindered provision of humanitarian aid and protection without discrimination to those most affected by the conflict should be allowed.
“We also urge Asean to include the Rohingya human rights crisis and protracted displacement as a key area of focus within the framework of the Asean Five Point Consensus,” he said.
While commending the Asean Chair’s announcement of the opening of an office of the Asean Special Envoy on Myanmar, Syed Hamid said that further decisive actions need to be taken to address the crisis and that Asean must in no way legitimise the Myanmar military.
“Asean must design clear benchmarks for the implementation of the Five Point Consensus and engage all Myanmar stakeholders to bring an end to the violence and facilitate the immediate protection of those most affected, including women, children and displaced persons.
“We also urge Asean Member States to adopt a unified stance against any proposals for new elections by the State Administration Council (SAC), which would be against the will of the majority of Myanmar’s population and will only push the country into further violence,” he said.
He said the warnings issued by the United Nations Secretary-General and the UN Special Envoy on Myanmar must be taken seriously, and Asean must take all necessary measures to prevent the situation from escalating and causing harm to the people of Myanmar.
“Asean cannot afford to fail the people of Myanmar. Already, the inability to pressure the Myanmar regime to address this humanitarian tragedy reflects badly on Asean and the world,” he said.