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ICC Note: Rising religious intolerance, persecution, and intercommunal conflicts have been growing in the Southeast Asia. Religious violations against the Rohingya Muslims and other religious minorities in Myanmar have pretty much taken the center stage of news coming out from Southeast Asia these days. However, countries such as Laos and Vietnam which are supposed to guarantee freedom of religious beliefs, have also increased religious persecution, especially against Christian minorities. Indonesia and Brunei also have shown hostility towards Christianity.

10/10/2017 Southeast Asia (Asia Correspondent) – Much concern has been raised about a trend of rising authoritarianism across Southeast Asia, from President Rodrigo Duterte’s murderous drug war in the Philippines to Cambodia’s rapid descent into dictatorship under Hun Sen.

New reports jointly released by The International Panel of Parliamentarians for Freedom of Religion or Belief (IPPFoRB) and Bangkok-based Asia Centre this week illustrate yet another worrying trend across the region: that of rising religious intolerance, persecution and intercommunal conflict.

One of the most religiously diverse regions on the planet – home to 250 million Muslims, 150 million Buddhists, 120 million Christians and sizeable communities of the Hindu, Confucian, Taoist and indigenous faiths –Southeast Asia has seen growing conflict along the fault lines of religion in recent years.

The Freedom of Religion or Belief under threat in Southeast Asia reports analyse the situation across the 10 Association for Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member states as well as the region’s newest nation Timor Leste via submissions and recommendations from the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.

The author Dr Robin Ramcharan of the Asia Centre identifies that there are four-fold challenges: from rising religious-based intolerance, discrimination against minorities and indigenous peoples, the “securitisation” of Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) in the context of fighting terrorism, and the “dire need” to uphold international human rights standards in this overall context.

In Burma (Myanmar), the report notes state-based discrimination and “serious violations” against the Rohingya Muslim community as well as other religious minorities, at a time when more than half a million refugees have fled persecution and violence into Bangladesh in little over a month.

While Burma has promised to “repatriate” refugees, the IPPFoRB report notes that Rohingya are “denied citizenship and fundamental rights”. Recent research from the Burma Human Rights Network showed that the Rohingya crisis was spurring broader “state-led persecution” and anti-Muslim sentiment across the country.

In Thailand Rohingyas also faced discrimination, along with the country’s numerous stateless minority ethnic communities. Moreover, according to the report, “Muslims in South Thailand were a concern in spite of the Government’s claims that the conflict is not a religious one.”

Muslim women and girls also faced discrimination in the Catholic-majority Philippines, it said.

The world’s largest Muslim nation Indonesia, meanwhile, has seen an “upswing in religious intolerance and violence in the past few years”, including ongoing discrimination against Christians and the Ahmadi Muslim minority sect under the guise of “maintain[ing] harmony.”

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