The Rohingya Crisis and Indonesia’s Possible Leading Role in Securing Asia-Pacific Regional Architecture

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi discusses recent development in the Rakhine State with Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi. (Source: http://www.kemlu.go.id)

Indonesia perceives regional stability as one of its national interest. Hence, Indonesia has been actively taking part in various efforts to develop a regional architecture in the Asia-Pacific. Pinthong (2015) defines regional architecture as creation of an optimal regional conditions for economies to prosper, societies to progress and human security to flourish. Pinthong further describes that such an architecture involves promotion of order and stability, as well as enhancement of the insurance against outbreak of conflict.

Recent development in Myanmar has been threatening ‘the optimal conditions’ cited above. The outbreak of violence and ensuing humanitarian crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine State has put collective efforts in developing a regional architecture in jeopardy. Such demeanours are in contradiction of the spirit of protecting human security. Those can also lead to the outbreak of a broader conflict.

Responding to the escalation of human rights abuses against the Rohingya – one of Myanmar’s minority ethnic groups – Indonesia pledged it commitment to take a leading role in assisting Myanmar to end the crisis. Indonesia took this decision as continuation of its engagement-driven policy towards Myanmar. As the biggest nation in Southeast Asia Indonesia played a prominent role in Myanmar’s accession to ASEAN. Indonesia also contributed to Myanmar’s transition to democracy.

Discussing Indonesia’s policy on the Rohingya issue, one may take two reasons into consideration. First, the Constitution of Indonesia clearly mentions that maintaining world peace and order is part of its responsibilities as member of the international community. We understand that the concept of regional architecture substantially connects with the concept of order. Order, as defined by Baylis and Smith (2006), refers to any regular or discernible pattern of relationship that are stable overtime. It also refers to a condition that allows certain goals to be achieved.

Based on this definition, Baylis and Smith further define world order as the degree of order based on the delivery of certain goods including security, human rights, basic needs and justice. From this point of view, crisis in Myanmar has put the regional order at risk. In line with its Constitution, Indonesia has the responsibility to assist Myanmar to end the crisis.

Second, Indonesia has cordial relationship with Myanmar. Last year Indonesian Foreign Minister visited Myanmar proposing a formula to solve the crisis. Indonesia should use the willingness of Myanmar to accept its views as diplomatic asset. Compared to other countries in the region, Indonesia has wider opportunity to urge Myanmar to stop cruelty against the Rohingya.

The next question is how to implement that role at the operational level. During her visit to Myanmar, Indonesian Foreign Minister proposed a plan to solve the Rohingya crisis. The proposal contains five main aspects: humanitarian services, conflict prevention, reconciliation, institution-building, and long-term development. We must bear in mind that the proposal is not only inclusive but also encompassing a wide range of aspects and phases. For sure, Indonesia will not be able to accomplish all of them without partnership with other stakeholders.

Reviewing the inclusiveness of the said proposal, I wish to suggest the following strategies. First, at the bilateral level Indonesia should invite other like-minded countries to participate in assisting Myanmar to end the crisis. At the regional level Indonesia should utilize relevant regional institutions and mechanisms to pursue the objectives of its proposal. At the global level Indonesia should summon non-government organizations and international organizations to take place. Considering the sensitivity of the issue and ensure the effectiveness of this approach, Indonesia should consult Myanmar recurrently on prerequisites of third-parties’ participation.

Second, Indonesia should put humanitarian services as matter of priority. Humanitarian services contain not only delivering logistics but also – more importantly – ensuring that the government of Myanmar utilize its resources to halt the human rights violation towards the Rohingya.

Third, Indonesia should talk with countries that have great political and economic influences on Myanmar. It is indeed important to discuss the proposal with Myanmar’s immediate neighbours like Bangladesh and Thailand. To further enhance comprehensiveness of its proposal, however, Indonesia should also talk with other great powers in the region such as China, Russia, and the United States. Endorsement from those three countries will significantly boost Indonesia’s proposal at multilateral stages such as in the United Nations.

Fourth, still Indonesia must oblige the global norm of sovereignty. Considering that Myanmar is still at transition period to democracy, inappropriate approaches to Rohingya issue may lead them to close their doors to foreign assistances. Indonesia, therefore, must prioritize the constructive engagement policy instead of alienating Myanmar. In other words, Indonesia must perceive Myanmar as part of the solution and not part of the problem.

Myanmar holds the biggest share of obligation in solving the Rohingya crisis. As a part of the international community, however, Indonesia has a responsibility to ensure the protection of human rights as inseparable part of an Asia-Pacific regional architecture. Finally, accomplishment in assisting Myanmar to solve the crisis in the Rakhine State will boost Indonesia’s credentials as an important player in the region. In a wider perspective, Indonesia’s capability to assist Myanmar in solving the Rohingya issue will not only benefit both nations but also put the development of Asia-Pacific regional architecture back on the right track.

References:

Baylis, John and Smith, Steve. 2006. The Globalization of World Politics Third Edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Pinthong, Chitriya. 2015. “The Evolving Regional Architecture for the Asia-Pacific: Toward an Indo-Pacific Idea.” Rangsit Journal of Social Sciences and Humanities Vol. 2, No. 1, January – June 2015.

President Joko Widodo visits Rohingya refugees at Cox Bazaar, Bangladesh. (Source: http://www.setkab.go.id)
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