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Southeast Asia Summit: Leaders must take a stand against ethnic cleansing of Rohingya

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s State Counsellor.

Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Australia must take a strong stand against ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people in Myanmar as they meet this weekend, Amnesty International has said.

Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s State Counsellor and de facto political leader, is expected to attend the first ever ASEAN-Australia Summit, taking place in Sydney on 17 and 18 March.

Amnesty has documented how the Myanmar security forces have engaged in a brutal campaign of ethnic cleansing since last August, amounting to crimes against humanity.

James Gomez, Amnesty International’s Director for Southeast Asia, said:

“The orchestrated campaign to drive Rohingya out of Myanmar and ensure they cannot return must end. Even if the violence has subsided, ethnic cleansing continues – authorities are starving Rohingya and erecting security force bases on their lands in a bid to force them out.

“The human rights crisis in Rakhine State, and Myanmar as a whole, must be top of the agenda this weekend in Sydney. ASEAN has been shamefully silent on what is happening in one of its member states so far. It is high time for the organisation to take meaningful action, and to call an emergency ASEAN Summit to address the issue.”

Earlier this week, Amnesty revealed how Myanmar is militarising northern Rakhine State – until recently home to the majority of Rohingya – by building bases for security forces on torched Rohingya villages.

The summit is taking place just weeks after media reports revealed that Australia is planning to support the Myanmar military through training programmes worth almost £290,000 throughout this year.

James Gomez said:

“Australia’s continued engagement with the Myanmar military is unacceptable and must end immediately. These are the same soldiers who just months ago killed Rohingya, burned villages, committed rapes and drove hundreds of thousands to flee in a vicious campaign of ethnic cleansing. It is also the same military that is responsible for war crimes against ethnic minority civilians in northern Myanmar.

“Myanmar’s regional neighbours – including Australia and ASEAN - must send a signal that crimes against humanity are unacceptable and will not go unpunished. They should not appear to condone such crimes by providing support and cooperation to the security forces that are responsible.”

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