EDITORIAL: Brokering peace in Myanmar
The Jakarta Post
Through adding its voice to the global concerns about the outbreak of violence and ensuing humanitarian crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine State, Indonesia is making a difference. President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo has sent Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi on a peace-brokering mission aimed at putting an end to what the UN-sanctioned advisory commission describes as the “threefold crisis related to development, human rights and security” the Rohingya people have been experiencing.
Many may perceive Indonesia’s diplomacy in Myanmar as pointless given the gravity of the conflict between the government in Nyapyidaw and resistance groups in Rakhine, which was recently exacerbated by the rise in attacks perpetrated by Muslim militias. Fears are rife of further radicalization in the territory, as the UN commission under the leadership of former secretary-general Kofi Annan has warned in its report, and which could invite terrorist groups like the Islamic State (IS) to fish in the murky waters, as has already happened in Myanmar’s ASEAN neighbor the Philippines.
Escalation of the conflict will easily divert the core issue of a humanitarian crisis into a “holy war” in defense of Muslims oppressed by their Buddhist rulers, not only in Myanmar but also other countries, including Indonesia as evident in the recent Molotov-cocktail attack targeting the Myanmar Embassy in Jakarta.
It was amid such complexity that Retno arrived in Myanmar to once again try to convince the government and its iconic leader, Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, to handle the Rakhine state issue with extra care. Protraction of the conflict, not to mention the intervention of ill-intentioned outsiders, will not only prolong the plight of thousands or millions of people but also endanger peace and stability in Southeast Asia and beyond.
On the other hand, the Indonesian Constitution mandates the country to participate in maintaining world peace and order, Myanmar and the Southeast Asia region included. Indonesia’s credentials as a peace broker have long been proven as has its commitment to peace-keeping missions in war-torn countries in the Middle East and Africa under the UN.
Retno’s visit to Myanmar testifies to Indonesia’s leverage with the predominantly Buddhist state, which eludes many other countries. As the biggest ASEAN nation Indonesia played a leading role in Myanmar’s accession to the regional grouping as well as its transition, albeit with difficulty, to democracy.
Ever since the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar deteriorated in the past few years, Indonesia has taken actions rather than simply making statements, ranging from humanitarian relief for the Rohingya to bilateral dialogue, to seek solutions to the conflict in natural-resource rich Rakhine on the border with Bangladesh.
With many accounts, including the Annan-led commission’s 63-page report, showing the severity of abuse, statelessness and discrimination in Rakhine, Retno’s visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh should kick start a concerted global effort to end the humanitarian tragedy.
It is too early to expect a settlement, or even a quick fix, in Myanmar as a result of Indonesia’s peace diplomacy. Such endeavors, however, are better than doing nothing.
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