Activists, UN Appeal For Rescue Of Rohingya Refugees Stranded At Sea

    Photo: UNICEF [via UN News]

    The Facts

    • On Saturday, Médecins Sans Frontiers called on Malaysia to allow a group of some 160 Rohingya refugees to disembark safely as several activists demand urgent assistance to rescue them from a damaged boat.

    • This comes after the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) on Thursday urged countries in Southeast Asia to help the refugees who have reportedly been adrift in the Andaman Sea for more than a week.

    The Spin

    Pro-establishment narrative

    The Rohingya people have desperately risked their lives crossing the ocean for years, trying to find a safe place to live after suffering human rights abuses in Myanmar. This crisis has exposed structural flaws in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as its rules made it possible for Myanmar to prevent regional powers from understanding the scale of human rights abuses and taking action to halt them.

    Establishment-critical narrative

    It is hypocritical to criticize solely ASEAN when Western democracies have done nothing to help Rohingya even though the International Court of Justice has long called for measures to protect those persecuted. While this is likely to be a consequence of fears that Myanmar would strengthen ties with Beijing if pressed, not acting to preserve the universal validity of human rights can only damage the West's reputation — the plight of the Rohingya at sea are the world's responsibility.

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