Kitty Shephard, Blog Writer

Western Democratic darling Aung San Suu Kyi’s party won the 2015 Myanmar election and promised a new democratic regime in Myanmar. The transition from the Junta government to the new democratic state has been delayed due to a set of demands from the previous military regime. This series of demands has created an evident segregation between military and presidential power. Suu Kyi’s party has been attempting to progress with forming the new government despite the division of power between the two parties. The main contention in this transition is that the constitution, created by the Junta, prohibits Suu Kyi from taking office. The Junta’s lack of collaboration on resolving this issue has created obstacles for the Democratic Party to start dialogues on issues which face Myanmar. 

The Rohingya crisis was one problem that the international community hoped would be addressed in this transition. The Rohingya are segregated from the rest of the population, without citizenship and have been victims of state-sponsored violence. In the new democratic regime Suu Kyi faces a challenge to reverse the institutionalized oppression of this population. The Rohingya crisis has spread across the Southeast Asian region with large, displaced populations of the minority residing in neighboring nations. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional power which has ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has the power to influence a new approach to reconciling the history of the Rohingya and defending their basic human rights.

ASEAN is a key player in resolving this troubled past. Its ratification of the UDHR compensates for the lack of Asian countries who have signed and implemented the 1951 Refugee Convention in domestic law. However, the UDHR details that the context of the situation is pertinent to determining a country’s responsibility to intervene. Within Myanmar, the Junta’s demands entail that their military personnel remain as the governing power in states such as Rakhine where 800,000 Rohingya reside. The Junta have created many obstacles prohibiting the progression of a transparent dialogue on the human rights violations against the Rohingya. A bill was passed which provides immunity for previous presidents’ actions whilst they held office. Both these obstacles limits the ability to reconcile the Rohingya crisis and create a promising future for this minority.

Despite these obstacles, the European refugee crisis in 2015 has opened the international community’s awareness to the importance of addressing the root causes of refugee migrations. The Bangladeshi government has announced they will be counting the approximate half a million Rohingya refugees in their upcoming census. In cooperation with the International Organization of Refugees, the census will focus on detailing the socio-economic status of these displaced people. This step of inclusion and recognition is an implicit protective act by the Bangladeshi government. Despite these small steps forward in the protection of Rohingya refugees, the responsibility to protect has to be realized by multiple nations in this region in order for any sustainable peace to be found. ASEAN has a responsibility to hold these nations accountable for the repressive treatment against the Rohingya and aid regimes both within Myanmar and abroad in protecting this minority.

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