Human rights groups yesterday called on Southeast Asian leaders to rethink their approach to the Rohingya refugee crisis ahead of a regional summit in Bangkok this week, after a report by the bloc was pilloried for whitewashing the persecution of the Muslim minority.
The report, commissioned by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and leaked to Agence France-Presse (AFP) earlier this month, gives a glowing assessment of Myanmar's repatriation efforts so far for Rohingya driven into neighboring Bangladesh. Myanmar's military launched a brutal crackdown on the Rohingya in August 2017, causing some 740,000 to flood into Bangladesh with widespread accounts of rape, mass killings and the razing of their villages.
A repatriation deal with Bangladesh has stalled, with virtually no Rohingya choosing to return to Myanmar due to security fears and the government's refusal to grant them citizenship or basic rights. In spite of this, the report from ASEAN's "Emergency Response and Assessment Team" predicted voluntary returns would be complete in two years. It also refused to use the word "Rohingya," an identity denied to them inside Myanmar where they are instead labelled "Bengalis," shorthand for illegal immigrants.