UN Issues Call to Rescue Hundreds of Rohingya Adrift at Sea

    UN Issues Call to Rescue Hundreds of Rohingya Adrift at Sea
    Image copyright: Jonas Gratzer/Getty Images News via Getty Images (May 24, 2015)

    The Facts

    • The UN refugee agency (UN High Commissioner for Refugees - UNHCR) warned on Monday that about 400 Rohingya Muslims aboard two boats reportedly out of supplies and adrift on the Andaman Sea, off the coast of Thailand, could die without life-saving rescue efforts.

    • UNHCR has urged all countries in the region, especially those in the area surrounding the Andaman Sea, to deploy their full search and rescue capacities to find the two unseaworthy vessels in distress.

    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 investigating the scale of human rights abuses and taking action to halt them. ASEAN must better align with the norms of the rules-based international community.

    Establishment-critical narrative

    It's hypocritical to criticize solely ASEAN when Western democracies have done nothing to help the 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 is the world's responsibility, including and especially Western nations.

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