Asean crisis; Malaysia rejects Rohingya stance

Asean crisis; Malaysia rejects Rohingya stance

Asean crisis; Malaysia rejects Rohingya stance

The Philippines on Monday said it respects Malaysia's decision to distance itself from the statement issued by Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations on the Rohingya crisis.

Malaysia's Foreign Minister Anifah Aman in a separate statement said his country felt the ASEAN statement was a "misrepresentation of the reality of the situation".

Senior diplomats and foreign ministers of Asean nations discussed the contents of the statement on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in NY before it was published, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Malaysian government sources said.

The Philippine Foreign Ministry said Malaysia's objection was the reason why the ministers chose to issue a chairman's statement "that would reflect the general sentiments of the other foreign ministers", instead of a joint communique.

"The Foreign Ministers acknowledged that the situation in Rakhine State is a complex inter-communal issue with deep historical roots".

Aman, Cayetano's Malaysian counterpart, said Malaysia's concerns were not reflected in the ASEAN chairman's statement.

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Anifah noted that statement omitted any mention of the Rohingya Muslims - a stateless, persecuted and unrecognised ethnic minority in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar - and merely referred to "affected communities".

He said that while Malaysia condemned the attacks against Myanmar security by the Rohingyan army, it called the subsequent clearance operations by Myanmar authorities "disproportionate" as it has lead to deaths of civilians and displacement of Rohingyas.

Human Rights Watch has slammed India for "mistreating" the Rohingya refugees.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Chairman's statement was issued after "extensive consultations" with Malaysia, and that other foreign ministers knew that Malaysia would disassociate itself from the statement.

Doctors treating Rohingya refugees fleeing the Myanmar military offensive are reporting widespread evidence of weaponized sexual violence against refugees that corroborates allegations made repeatedly over the past year.

Aman added that the chair's statement was not based consensus among members, because it simply deleted the line explicitly saying the Rohingyas are among the communities affected by the continuing violence in Myanmar.

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"The Philippines, as chair, tolerates the public manifestation of dissenting voices", the Philippine foreign ministry said in a statement yesterday.

"We will not be asking for the statement to be retracted but would like to highlight that the statement should not have quoted ASEAN foreign affairs because there was no consensus achieved", he said.

The DFA then emphasized that the crucial act now is for ASEAN to undertake a coordinated effort to assist Myanmar in addressing the needs of the people in the area in terms security, livelihood, well-being, and to provide humanitarian assistance to affected communities.

"Those rape victim women should come to us", said Zaw Htay, spokesman for Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as cited by Reuters.

"This relatively muted response shows the growing irrelevance of the regional body in containing massive atrocities in its very own backyard", Heydarian said.

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