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UN Special Rapporteur urges Indonesia and ASEAN to address Myanmar crisis

JAKARTA, INDONESIA — Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, concluded a nine-day mission to Indonesia on Wednesday, urging the nation and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to take decisive action to address the intensifying crisis in Myanmar.

Andrews applauded Indonesia’s support for the people of Myanmar and called on the nation, as the current Chair of ASEAN and a leading power in Southeast Asia, to play a more pivotal role in resolving the crisis.

In a press conference in Jakarta, Andrews explained his choice of Indonesia as a key player in the Myanmar issue. “I came to Indonesia because the human rights situation in Myanmar is dire and getting worse, and because I believe that Indonesia is positioned to play a critical role in the resolution of this crisis,” he stated.

He expressed concern that the plight of Myanmar had largely escaped global attention and that some governments were accepting the junta’s oppressive rule as inevitable. “This narrative is exactly what the junta wants and needs to prevail,” he warned.

During his discussions with Indonesian and ASEAN officials, Andrews emphasized the world’s expectations for their leadership in resolving the crisis in Myanmar.

The Special Rapporteur noted the disparity between ASEAN’s cautious long-term outlook and the immediate, dire conditions faced by the people of Myanmar, who he said “do not have decades nor years – some do not even have days – for the junta to be held accountable.”

Andrews urged Indonesia to extend its leadership on the Myanmar issue beyond its current ASEAN chairmanship and to consider alternative solutions to the deadlock.

He appealed to ASEAN and its allies to hold the junta accountable for its severe human rights violations and its disregard for the Five-Point Consensus. Andrews urged Indonesia to isolate the junta, reducing its ability to harm the people of Myanmar.

During his visit, Andrews travelled to the Aceh Province, where he visited a Rohingya refugee camp. He heard firsthand accounts of the severe hardships faced by the Rohingya, who had risked perilous sea journeys to reach safety in Indonesia.

Recounting their stories of harrowing experiences at sea, Andrews highlighted the refugees’ extreme vulnerability and their desperate need for a safer life.

Despite the empathy shown by local Acehnese fishermen, civil society groups, and UN staff working with the refugees, Andrews warned of the many challenges facing Rohingya refugees in Indonesia and the region.

Andrews emphasized that while Myanmar holds the primary responsibility for the rights of the Rohingya, this responsibility also extends to the countries where they seek refuge and to the broader international community.

The Special Rapporteur firmly stated that Indonesia, given its position, has the opportunity to champion and support the Rohingya on the global stage.

Andrews, a US citizen and former member of the US Congress, is a renowned human rights advocate affiliated with Yale Law School and Harvard University’s Asia Center. His extensive experience includes work with international affairs organizations, governments, and advocacy NGOs.

More than 3,600 civilians have been killed in the Myanmar military’s crackdown since the coup in 2021, according to a local monitoring group, while the United Nations says more than one million people have been displaced by violence.

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