World Beyond War: The Rohingya Refugee Crisis and its Implications on Security in South East Asia

NOTE to those planning to view this livestream: 9 a.m. on Sept 24 in Kuala Lumpur is 9 p.m. on Sept 23 in Washington, D.C.


JUST International Seminar

World Beyond War: The Rohingya Refugee Crisis and its Implications on Security in South East Asia

Concept Note

JUST International will host a seminar in September 2016 as part of its support for a global nonviolent movement entitled ‘World Beyond War’, based in Washington D.C., to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace. The organization of the seminar in Kuala Lumpur supports a major World Beyond War event in Washington, D.C. scheduled for 23-25 September 2016, just after the International Day of Peace. This note provides the concept for the JUST International seminar as well as its scope and strategic contribution to the World Beyond War movement.

The seminar will provide an opportunity to assess the Rohingya refugee crisis in Myanmar, from the perspective of non-traditional security (‘NTS’) challenges, and its nexus to inter-state cooperation in the South East Asian region. The NTS challenges are non-military areas that expand the security agenda beyond its traditional remit of state and military security such as undocumented forced migration, transnational organized crime i.e. people smuggling, human and narco trafficking, food shortages and infectious diseases. These challenges are amplified by the forces of globalization, and exceed the capacity of individual states in the region to effectively resolve them, which can lead to conflict or war.

Despite garnering significant public attention in 2015 over the boat crisis, Rohingya refugees are not welcomed by other countries in ASEAN, as they are increasingly viewed as possible threats to national security associated with rise of terrorism and transnational crime, in addition to being seen as an economic burden. The actions taken at the regional level by ASEAN to solve the Rohingya refugee crisis are focused on stemming the flow of refugees into their countries rather than addressing its root causes.

A strong, multilateral co-operative approach in the region is urgently needed, in line with ASEAN’s ‘people first’ policy, to halt the catastrophic unfolding of genocidal acts against the Rohingya. The formulation of an ASEAN comprehensive framework of action must also be considered, through a range of humanitarian, security, political, legal and development initiatives involving governments, international organizations and civil society actors. The framework should place emphasis on the human security of individuals in the region through preventive diplomacy and conflict management, including serious examination of root causes for flight of Rohingyas. The impetus for such a response within ASEAN has already begun, with the recently published report on “The Rohingya Crisis and the Risk of Atrocities in Myanmar”, by the ASEAN Parliamentarians for Human Rights. The report describes the Rohingya refugee crisis as an ASEAN problem, and ASEAN-wide challenge, setting out a “Call to Action” by outlining ten action points for consideration.


The United Nations considers the Rohingya as one of the most persecuted groups in the world. Their humanitarian condition is worsened by their official statelessness in Myanmar, deprived of citizenship as Myanmar considers the Rohingya to be immigrants from Bangladesh and West Bengal. The situation has deteriorated to such a degree that a recent report by the International State Crime Initiative (ISCI) at the Queen Mary University of London states that the Rohingya are facing the final stages of genocide. The report makes reference to decades of persecution which have taken on a new and intensified form since the emergence of mass killings in 2012. The marked escalation in what has been described by the report as state-sponsored stigmatization, discrimination, violence and segregation, and the systematic weakening of the community, makeprecarious the very existence of the Rohingya. Another recent report prepared by the International Human Rights Clinic at the Yale Law School for Fortify Rights have concluded that there is strong evidence that genocide is being committed against the Rohingya by security forces, government officials, local Rakhine and others.

In desperation, the Rohingya have turned to people smugglers and boarded boats in Bangladesh and Myanmar, hoping to reach safety and seek refuge in other ASEAN countries. This mass refugee movement has fuelled a thriving human trafficking trade that include the establishment of jungle camps along Thailand’s border with Malaysia. These camps which contained mass graves were discovered by Thai authorities in 2015, resulting in boats filled with refugees being abandoned and set adrift at sea by trafficking rings, necessitating rescue operations by Malaysia and Indonesia. Following this, the Thai government organized a “Special Meeting on Irregular Migration in the Indian Ocean” on 29 May, 2015 in Bangkok in recognition of the need for stronger multilateral cooperation to address the Rohingya refugee issue.

Proposed Seminar Programme

Time Agenda
8.30 am – 9.00 am Registration
9.00am-9.30 am Introduction by JUST President Dr. Chandra Muzaffar:World Beyond War


9.30am-10.00am Speaker 1 Richard Towle (UNHCR Representative) : The Rohingya Refugee Crisis: Causes and Consequences
10.00am-10.30am Speaker 2 Tan Sri Hasmy Aham (former Chairman of SUHAKAM): Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Challenges presented by the Rohingya Refugee Crisis 
10.30am-10.45am Speaker Q&A Session
10.45-11.00am Tea/Coffee Break
11.00am-12.00pm Panel Discussion (5 participants): The role of ASEAN in addressing NTS Challenges presented by the Rohingya Refugee Crisis

  • Dr. Arujunan Narayanan – JUST
  • Dr. Jatswan Singh – Universiti Malaya (Department of International and Strategic Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences)
  • Vidya (K.V Soon) – International Network of Engaged Buddhists (INEB)
  • Azlinariah Abdullah – ASTRO Awani
  • Dr. Mohammad Iqbal B. Omar – MERCY Malaysia
12.00pm-12.45pm Panelists Q&A Session
12.45pm-1.00pm Closing of Seminar


1.00pm Lunch


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