The Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID) and the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict – Southeast Asia (GPPAC-SEA), along with its partners and networks in the broad civil society and peace movement in the region, today join the world and the international community in commemorating  World Refugee Day that was declared by the United Nations General Assembly in Resolution 55/76 in 4 December 2000. Each year, on June 20, World Refugee Day highlights the bravery and strength of people forced to flee their home countries to escape war or persecution. 

This year’s theme of World Refugee Day is dubbed “Hope away from home –  A world where refugees are always included .” It is within the context of this theme that we continue to demand the urgency for a robust people -to- people solidarity for the Rohingya.  

Today, GPPAC-SEA and IID take the observance of World Refugee Day 2023 as an opportunity to further extend solidarity and express our concern over the continuing human rights violations of the peoples of Myanmar particularly the ethnic nationalities including the Rohingya people.

Since 2017, after a massive wave of persecution and violence, nearly 1 million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar have been forced to cross the border into Bangladesh. Cox’s Bazar is the world’s largest refugee settlement and nearly 600,000 inhabitants residing in temporary camps throughout the district are children. Rohingya refugees have also sought refuge in other neighboring countries like Thailand (92,000) and India (21,000), while others are in Indonesia, Nepal and other countries across the region.

Meanwhile, the number of internally displaced persons or IDPs in Myanmar since the failed military coup in 2021 was tallied at 1.2 million according to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).   

In recent years, especially after the failed military coup in Myanmar two years ago, thousands of Rohingya from Rakhine state in Burma have fled their homes in a desperate attempt to escape the worsening sectarian violence and armed attacks mostly perpetrated by the Burmese army in their communities. Various independent reports have documented systematic human rights violations including the burning of Rohingya villages, sexual violence against Rohingya women, and the indiscriminate shooting on unarmed and defenseless civilians. The aftermath of the intense and brutal military action by the Myanmar government has led to hundreds of innocent people being killed, destruction of livelihood and properties and multiple-displacement of Rohingya and Arakan peoples.

As solidarity activists, we support the urgent demand for a review and amendment to Myanmar’s 1982 Citizenship Law and Myanmar’s 2008 sham constitution—seen as a  root of this tragedy, for it to comply with existing international norms; end restrictions to citizenship and freedom of movement of the Rohingya people; and urge Myanmar to comply with relevant international human rights and humanitarian law standards and norms, particularly on the protection of civilians in times of conflict, and protection of children, women and minorities.

We reassert our belief that we must address the root causes of the issue and bring into focus the structural-legal discrimination against the Rohingya people. We also situate the recent violence and abuses within the overall dismal state of democracy in Myanmar coupled with long-standing patterns of human rights violations against ethnic civilians by the Burma/Myanmar military in other conflict areas in Myanmar especially in  northern Shan and Kachin States.

Given the appalling lack of firm and strong regional response specifically from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on the issue of the Rohingya, regional civil society, human rights and peoples’ movements have to once again prove that people-to-people solidarity can make a difference in the lives and struggles of the Rohingya people. The need to consolidate towards a common position on this issue is imperative. 

We believe that the longstanding persecution of the Rohingya and the collective failure of the international community to exact accountability from the military generals of Myanmar for its crimes against humanity committed against ethnic populations have further emboldened the military  to grab power 2 years  ago.   

On the occasion of World Refugee Day 2023 and beyond, we reiterate the following demands: 

For the ASEAN: 

  1. For all member-states of ASEAN to abide by the principle of non-refoulement guarantees, under International Human Rights Law to provide full protection to refugees and asylum seekers including the Rohingya and other ethnic nationalities in Myanmar.
  2. Strengthen and mobilize ASEAN Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) and ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) mandate and mechanisms to tackle the crisis, and the whole democracy issues in Myanmar especially after the attempted coup by the military.
  3. ASEAN and the international community must demand accountability and probe the continued killings of activists in Myanmar and call on the junta to immediately stop its horrific  violence and unconditionally release the thousands of arbitrarily arrested and detained activists4.) To formally recognize Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG). 

For the International/regional intergovernmental and civil society organizations to:

  1. Coordinate to monitor developments in Rakhine State and other conflict-affected areas, as well as monitor the junta’s  action on the refugees, mindful of ‘Do No Harm’ principles.
  2. Support/impose a global arms embargo and advocate to relevant governments to cease military-to-military engagement and impose targeted sanctions against the Burma/Myanmar Army, until it ends attacks against civilians and returns civilian power to democratically elected leaders.
  3. Engage the Burma/Myanmar military ]on cessation of hostilities, review of discriminatory legal frameworks, and compliance with international human rights conventions and treaties
  4. Cease circulation of unverified, inflammatory material on social media and condemn hate speech towards the Rohingya and other minorities.

Today, we pledge our unrelenting commitment to continuously struggle for human rights, justice, freedom and peace for the Rohingya and the peoples of Myanmar. ###

#WorldRefugeeDay #WeStandWithRohingya #DemocracyInBurmaNow!

For Inquiries: Gani Abunda – 0961-356-7397;