ASEAN lawmakers to skip discussions on Rohingya, PH drug deaths

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 11 2017 05:02 PM | Updated as of Sep 11 2017 07:23 PM

A Rohingya refugee man pulls a child as they walk to the shore after crossing the Bangladesh-Myanmar border by boat through the Bay of Bengal in Shah Porir Dwip, Bangladesh, September 10, 2017. Reuters

MANILA - The plight of the Rohingya in Myanmar and the alleged extra-judicial killings under the Duterte administration will not be discussed in the upcoming meeting of Southeast Asian lawmakers and parliamentarians later this week, Filipino officials said Monday.

The the 38th General Assembly of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly is set for Septembed 14 to 20, at the Makati Shangri-La in Makati City. 

Deputy Secretary General Artemio Adasa, chair of the Committee on Substantive Matters and Documentation of the Task Force AIPA 38th General Assembly, said the issue of the Rohingya is a "national concern" in Myanmar, where they are considered the "problematic constituents."

"Definitely on our part, hind na rin natin yung idi-discuss. I put in sa plenary but probably there might be some bilateral agreements. Hindi na kailangan na consensus, collectively among the group as an AIPA institution lang tayo," he said in response to a query from the media during their press conference.

Adasa said Indonesia actually wanted to discuss a resolution on the plight of the Rohingya, which Myanmar objected to. 

"It happened in one of the proposed resolution sa Indonesia which take certain issue on the flight of the Rohingya. Nag-object ang Myanmar. So, definitely we cannot place this as part of the issue to be deliberated during the plenary."

House Secretary General Cesar Pareja, Chair of Task Force AIPA 38th General Assembly, seconded Adasa, noting that "there are instances na hindi ma-agree upon on the general consensus with all the AIPA countries."

"However those concerned are free na magkaroon ng separate dialogues parang bilateral agreement within them o intra-regional, para hindi naman within their own framework they can help each other without necessarily involving all the others na syempre yung iba naman baka may ibang interest or hindi talaga sila involved," he said.

"Even if it's a regional cooperation yung nangyayari dati sa AIPA and sa ASEAN, the organization still respect yung sovereignty ng individual nations and hindi natin pwedeng i-impose basta kung ano yung gusto natin yung ganun din. In the same manner hindi rin naman natin tatanggapin yun basta kung ano yung gusto nilang mangyari, masusunod din, so it has to be consensus among all nations but it will not prevent us from respectfully dealing with the situation on a one-on-one basis also with other countries."

Rights monitors and Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh say the Myanmar army has been trying to force them out of Rakhine state with a campaign of arson and killings.

The US State Department has voiced its concern "following serious allegations of human rights abuses including mass burnings of Rohingya villages and violence conducted by security forces and also armed civilians."

The U.S. ambassador has met Myanmar officials to discuss "allegations of violence conducted by both the security forces and civilians" and access for humanitarian groups, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

United Nations Security Council Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also warned there was a risk of ethnic cleansing in Myanmar that could destabilize the region.

NO DISCUSSIONS ON DRUG KILLINGS

Similarly, AIPA will not be discussing the alleged extra-judicial killings under the Duterte administration. 

"Pgadating doon sa EJK ano, wala pa naman," said Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu, member of the Executive Committee.

Abu said there had been exchange of information regarding illegal drugs and possible cooperation in the region during the latest meeting of the AIPA Fact Finding Committee (AIFOCOM) in a hotel in Pasay last July.

"Nagkakaroon na ng exchange of information. Nagkakaroon na kami ng exchange of information pati, huwag lang iyong sa ating bansa, kahit iyong magkakatabi iyong land base, iyong Myanmar, Thailand iyong magkakatabi. Sila nagkakaroon na sila ng mga border security, talagang sila na mismo ang nagtutulungan, pati iyong sa pagsusunog ng cocaine yung mga laboratory, yung mga nako-confiscate, nagtutulungan sila," he said.

"Alam naman natin dito sa nangyari sa P6.4-billion na ang tip ay nanggaling sa ibang bansa bagamat hindi member ng ASEAN pero naroon na iyong simula," he added, pertaining to the drug haul from China that is being investigated in the houses of Congress.

"Patuloy din iyong exchange of information natin pati ng mga government agencies natin doon sa Thailand, kung mapapansin ninyo iyon ngang sinabi ni Presidente noon, ang information niya na nakalap para makilala nila kung sino talaga iyong mga dinadaanan ng droga dito na mga personalities galling pa sa Thailand."

However there will be discussions on the campaign against illegal drugs in the region, which will involve dialogue partners like China which has emerged as a top supplier of narcotics in the country.

"Definitely, definitely, dahil noong nagdaan ay iyon na rin ang isa sa pinag-usapan. May mga bansa tayo na kasapi sa ASEAN may mga pondo pa na galing sa Chinese government para ma-combat iyong problema natin sa droga. Nagkaroon na ng discussion sa last AIFOCOM then madi-discuss ulit iyon," said Abu.

"We also have observer countries kung saan magkakaroon tayo ng dialogue and one of the observer countries is China at kasama na nga sa aming idi-discuss with them is strengthening cooperation in combating transnational crimes including the drug menace an as well as terrorism and violent extremism, fuel smuggling," added Pareja.

Pareja said there will also be continuing dialogue with observer countries such as Australia, Belarus, Canada, European Parliament, India, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Russian Federation and Timor Leste.

Abu said everything is set for the assembly. "I would like you to know that it's all systems go for this event, which will be hosted by the House of Representatives."

He said Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez along with the heads of delegations of AIPA member countries and other AIPA officers will pay a courtesy call on President Rodrigo Duterte, on the last day of the conference. Duterte will be the keynote speaker at the closing ceremony of the 38th AIPA General Assembly.

Abu said AIPA has different committees that will handle the different dialogues on specific topics of interest to AIPA. The dialogues will also cover terrorism.