The UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar has called on Southeast Asia’s regional bloc Asean to follow Malaysia’s lead and re-examine its long-standing policy of non-interference. Tom Andrews said on Thursday there is too much at stake in troubled Myanmar – taken over by a military junta during a 2021 coup – with complacency and inaction among the international community, and “more needs to be done” to avoid more death and suffering. Andrews, a former United States congressman, said it is in Asean’s best interests to stop Myanmar’s violence as it has a direct impact on people across the region. “The solution is not here, it is in Myanmar,” the UN envoy said during a media briefing at the end of an eight-day visit to Malaysia. Pointing at Malaysia as the 10 member bloc’s outlier, Andrews applauded the country’s foreign minister Saifuddin Abdullah for calling for a move from Asean’s long-standing policy of non-interference of a member’s domestic issues, to one of ‘non-indifference’. “Malaysia has given voice to the obvious fact that, after more than one year, nothing has moved and since nothing has moved, more people are being killed and more people are being forced to flee the country,” said Andrews. This is in light of the continued violence in the country more than a year since the ‘Five Point Consensus’ was signed in Indonesia in April 2021, involving nine Asean leaders and Myanmar junta chief Min Aung Hlaing. The consensus has been panned by international NGO Human Rights Watch, and many others, as a failure. Since the February 2021 coup , junta forces have killed more than 2,000 civilians and arrested over 14,000. At least one million people have had to flee their homes but remain in Myanmar, while there has also been a massive refugee crisis in the region as others escape the atrocities by running to other countries. Troublingly, the HRW has argued that the consensus has become a pretext for nations such as the United Kingdom, United States, Australia, and European Union member states to delay real action under the guise of waiting for Asean leadership. Asean’s Myanmar envoy should be a ‘full-time’ job, Malaysia’s top diplomat says To this, Andrew said the consensus is “meaningless if it stays on paper” and he supported Saifuddin’s calls for a rethinking of the approach with a specific, and actionable, implementation strategy. “I am hoping very, very much that Asean member states heed it,” Andrews added. In defiance of the bloc, the junta has regularly barred Asean-appointed special envoys to the country – from Brunei and Cambodia – from meeting with deposed Burmese leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other detained civilian leaders, despite it being a consensus requirement. This repeated snub eventually led to Malaysia meeting Myanmar’s government-in-exile, the National Unity Government (NUG), in May, reiterating its stance that Asean envoys should engage all stakeholders, including representatives from the NUG and the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC), both formed after the coup in response to the military takeover. Meeting his counterpart during the US-Asean special summit in Washington DC, Saifuddin expressed Malaysia’s willingness to work towards restoring peace and democracy in Myanmar. While Malaysia is the only Asean nation to openly engage with the NUG, there have been signs of a changing attitude among other members. Earlier this month Cambodian leader Hun Sen penned a letter to junta chief Min Aung Hlaing, urging him to reconsider the planned execution of four political opponents and pro-democracy advocates. They will be the first executions in Myanmar in 30 years if they go ahead. According to the Associated Press, Hun Sen wrote that “with deep concern and sincere desire to help Myanmar achieve peace and national reconciliation, I would like to earnestly request you and the State Administrative Council (SAC) to reconsider the sentences and refrain from carrying out the death sentences given to those anti-SAC individuals”. Despite his praise for Malaysia’s foreign minister, the UN Special Rapporteur nevertheless expressed concern over the country’s ongoing detention of refugees, including children, as well as the denial of access for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to detention facilities since 2019. “We have sought meetings with the home ministry but we have not met them,” said Andrews, answering a question about being ignored by the ministry in charge of immigration. Without intervention from the UNHCR, asylum seekers are left languishing in detention facilities due to Malaysia’s policy of not recognising refugees and lumping asylum seekers together with other undocumented migrants and immigration law offenders. This is worse for Rohingya refugees who are potentially detained indefinitely as they are considered stateless and Myanmar refuses to accept them back. Why Malaysia is bracing for a fresh influx of Rohingya refugees “Families of those detained have no access to their relatives. I spoke to a refugee whose brother has been detained for 6 months. She does not know his condition nor when, or even if, he will be released,” said Andrews. The appalling conditions inside the centres led to more than 520 migrants breaking out of one in Penang in April. Six of those who fled, including two children, were killed by traffic while attempting to cross a six-lane highway.