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ASEAN summit silence on Rohingya 'an absolute travesty'

ASEAN summit silence on Rohingya 'an absolute travesty'
From Al Jazeera - November 14, 2017

Manila, Philippines - After two days of ceremonious meetings, Southeast Asian leaders missed the bullseye in talks about two major human rights issues affecting their region: Myanmar's handling of the Rohingya crisis and the Philippines' bloody campaign against illegal drug traffickers.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte, this year's Chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), managed to fend off criticism of his "war on drugs", which has left thousands of people dead.

"I think Duterte was very smart in using this event to legitimise himself and push back against criticism of his drug war," said Richard Heydarian, a geopolitical analyst from De La Salle University in Manila.

"We saw no major country raising the drug war issue or if ever they raised it, it was very low-key."

But it was tit-for-tat.

Duterte spared his Myanmar counterpart, de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, from having to explain or account for the plight of the 600,000 Rohingya who have been forced to flee the country to Bangladesh.

Driven out by violence from state forces, the displaced Rohingya are languishing at refugee camps. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has described their situation as "catastrophic".

Duterte's spokesman said two of the 10 ASEAN leaders brought up the Rohingya issue at their plenary meeting on Monday, and that Suu Kyi assured the group that the crisis was being addressed.

The spokesman also said that Suu Kyi agreed to accept humanitarian assistance for the Rohingya, which Myanmar had earlier been accused of restricting.

Chairman's statement

In the penultimate draft of Duterte's "Chairmans Statement" - a document issued by the host leader to sum up the results of the group's discussions - the ASEAN leaders briefly tackled the Rohingya situation as a matter of "disaster resiliency".

"Weextended appreciation for the prompt response in the delivery of relief items for the Northern Viet Nam flash floods and landslides victims, the displaced communities in Marawi City, the Philippines, as well as the affected communities in Northern Rakhine State, Myanmar," the statement read.

There was no other mention of the issue in the 26-page document.

Meanwhile, the document contained two paragraphs on the illegal drug problem and how the member countries have worked together in efforts to solve it.

There was, however, no mention of Duterte's campaign against illegal drugs or its victims.

'Moral ascendancy'

Consensus, non-interference

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