Focus on Rohingya crisis at ASEAN summit

March 14, 2018

ASEAN is expected to discuss Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh who are escaping violence in Myanmar.

The sparkling Sydney harbour is a world away from the chaos of the Bangladesh tent cities hosting hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees who fled violence in Myanmar.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is hosting leaders from the 10-country Association of South East Asian Nations, including Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi at a special summit in Sydney which kicks off from Friday.

Doctors Without Borders head of mission in Bangladesh Pavlo Kolovos, on the sidelines of the summit, hopes to convince officials from ASEAN countries to pressure Myanmar to put an end to the atrocities.

"This non-interference policy needs to switch to a non-indifference policy," Mr Kolovos told AAP.

More than 700,000 Rohingya people have poured across the border into Bangladesh refugee camps since last August following a military crackdown

Mr Kolovos' organisation started off with one hospital and an outpatient clinic which has since grown to six hospitals, 20 clinics including three that are 24-hour a day emergency rooms.

Doctors have been grappling with outbreaks of diptheria and measles in the camps.

Mr Kolovos said the diptheria outbreak had subsided to about 10 new patients a day compared to 180 a day back in December.

"Anywhere else in the world this would be considered alarming," he said.

The risk of whooping cough and hepatitis cases is also high.

Mr Kolovos urged Mr Turnbull to emphasise to Ms Suu Kyi that Rohingya people have a right to the land they were driven off, and the camps in Bangladesh are not a long-term solution as aid groups brace for the upcoming cyclone and monsoon seasons.

An estimated 30,000 people are expected to have their tents destroyed by landslides and 70,000 camp residents are likely to be displaced from flooding.

"You can't solve city problems with camp solutions," he said.

"It needs large-scale engineering solutions and those are not realistically available from either the Bangladesh government or even the global aid community."

Mr Kolovos said the international community needed to have a watchdog role over any returns process to Myanmar.

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