Since August 2017, rampant persecution and violence in Myanmar’s Rakhine state has pushed hundreds of thousands of Muslim minority people, known as ‘Rohingyas,’ to abandon their homes and seek sanctuary in Bangladesh. According to UN estimates, 200,000 Myanmarese civilians have already sought refuge in Bangladesh following prior displacements. Many more have travelled to Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia, frequently with the assistance of human traffickers.
In Myanmar, civilian and military authorities deny targeting Muslims in Rakhine and suggest that the international world is misrepresenting the severity of the violence, a viewpoint shared by extreme nationalists.
The number of individuals living in Bangladeshi camps has risen to over 1.1 million, leading ASEAN to consider a meaningful reaction. The safe and voluntary return of refugees currently residing in Bangladeshi displacement camps was a topic of discussion during the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in January 2019. They finalized preparations for the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) to analyze Rakhine’s needs. This would enable them to have a better understanding of the areas of collaboration that ASEAN may help in the repatriation process in order to increase refugee confidence and trust in returning home.