Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has been sent to Myanmar to broker peace and provide humanitarian aid to the persecuted Rohingya Muslims.
The Rohingya are an ethnic Muslim minority group from Myanmar’s western Rakhine state. Their origin can be traced back to the 15th century, when thousands settled in Myanmar from Arakan Kingdom. Practicing a variation of Sunni Islam, there are reportedly one million Rohingya in Myanmar. The government of Myanmar has however, refused to recognize them as one of its ethnic groups. They do not get legal protection from the government. The processes for them to get a citizenship is incredibly hard and often impossible.
Given their persecution, thousands have fled the region in boats. Due to violent riots, since 2012, over 110,000 Rohingya left Myanmar and headed to countries like Thailand and Malaysia. The number of refugees increased exponentially in 2015. Thein Sein, the Burmese President from 2011 to 2016 did little to offer relief to Rohingya.
According to those who fled the region, fresh bout of violence erupted in Myanmar on August 25th, 2017. Aid agencies have reported that at least 73,000 Rohingya have fled as a direct result of it. Eye witness accounts paint a picture of violent mass killing in the region including that of women and children. The violence is being perpetuated by Myanmar forces, say witnesses.
Indonesia is home to the world’s largest Muslim population. There is growing anger in the country regarding the treatment of Rohingya Muslims. Recently, a petrol bomb was thrown at Myanmar’s embassy in Jakarta. Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi has been sent to Myanmar to broker peace and end the violence towards Rohingya Muslims.
Joko Widodo, the President of Indonesia said, “Earlier this afternoon the foreign minister has departed to Myanmar to ask the Myanmar government to stop and prevent violence, to provide protection to all citizens - including Muslims in Myanmar - and to give access to humanitarian aid.”
There have been growing calls from the international community urging Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to end violence. Suu Kyi is the de facto leader of Myanmar and protestors have urged the Nobel Peace Prize committee to rescind her award. The younger winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai said, “Over the last several years, I have repeatedly condemned this tragic and shameful treatment. I am still waiting for my fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi to do the same. The world is waiting and the Rohingya Muslims are waiting.”
In addition, Myanmar has blocked all United Nations aid agencies from delivering vital supplies and aid to the region. Food, water and medicine have been currently blocked.
Our assessment is that Indonesia is leading the crusade for ending violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. In 1997, it had welcomed Myanmar to ASEAN and the two countries have established bilateral ties. Myanmar will have to respond to the growing calls from international community and address this problem. While the violence continues, there are considerable protests from several Muslim organizations against the massacre. It would be extremely important for the military to mobilize resources and rescue the Rohingya Muslims.