With a seat on the UN Security Council, what can key ASEAN member Indonesia do to solve the Rohingya crisis?

Rohingya Muslim people who fled Myanmar wait for their turn to collect food aid near Kutupalong refugee camp, Bangladesh. www.shutterstock.com

With a seat on the UN Security Council, what can key ASEAN member Indonesia do to solve the Rohingya crisis?

The United Nations (UN) recently released a report accusing Myanmar’s military of committing genocide. Since August 2017, hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, a religious and ethnic minority in Myanmar, have fled persecution and violence by the Myanmar military to neighbouring Bangladesh.

The UN also called for Myanmar’s generals to face trial at the International Criminal Court (ICC).


Read more: Explainer: why the UN has found Myanmar’s military committed genocide against the Rohingya


Indonesia, Myanmar’s neighbour and fellow member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), will be a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council starting January 1, 2019.

What can Indonesia do to help resolve the Rohingya refugee crisis?

Responses from international community

The crimes against the Rohingya listed by the UN report include murder, rape, torture, sexual slavery, persecution and enslavement.


Read more: Rohingya crisis: a year since it shocked the world, what's changed?


In response, ASEAN, via the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights (APHR), recommended members of the UN Security Council bring the case to the ICC.

Challenges for Indonesia

Senior Indonesian diplomat Abdulkadir Jailani has stated that having a seat on the Security Council, considered the most powerful organ of the UN, is a great opportunity for Indonesia to wield its diplomatic influence in creating peace.

One of the most pressing issues in the region that Indonesia must deal with as a non-permanent Security Council member is the Rohingya crisis.

Analysts have suggested Indonesia should take the role of “a mediator and leader” in resolving this crisis.

But, given its dual role as ASEAN member state and Security Council non-permanent member, Indonesia will face huge challenges if it wants to act on APHR’s call to bring the Rohingya case to the ICC. For a start, Indonesia’s status as a non-party to the ICC Rome Statute might be problematic.


Read more: ASEAN countries should find a solution to end the persecution of Rohingya


A Rohingya woman cries as she sits beside a road near a camp in Tuangiri, Teknaf, Bangladesh, recently. Abir Abdullah/EPA

What can Indonesia do?

The least that Indonesia can do is to watch the progress of the Rohingya case closely.

A pre-trial at the ICC on the alleged deportation of the Rohingyas in early September decided the case had enough evidence and could go to trial.

This result should be a nudge for Indonesia to do more in resolving the Rohingya crisis.

The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide has welcomed this verdict. ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda has launched a preliminary investigation into the case.

As the ASEAN’s “natural leader”, Indonesia might lend more weight to the push to end the Rohingya refugee crisis.

However, insisting on voluntary repatriation is not enough.


Read more: The Rohingya repatriation deal: what is at stake and what needs to be done


The chairperson of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar, Marzuki Darusman, said repatriation must be followed by, among other things, acknowledging the Rohingyas’ citizenship.

If Indonesia, in Abdulkadir Jailani’s words, would like to make “a noteworthy contribution … in creating peace”, then the new Security Council non-permanent member must play a key role in encouraging the international community and the Security Council to resolve the Rohingya crisis.

Support evidence-based journalism with a tax-deductible donation today.