Malaysiakini NEWS

Rohingya and Rakhine state issues still foremost in Asean discussions

Published:  |  Modified:

Malaysia maintains its position that the perpetrators of the Rohingya genocide in Myanmar must be brought to justice and repatriation that is voluntary, safe and dignified should take place as quickly as possible, said Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah.

Saifuddin (photo) was commenting on the need for intervention on the Rohingya issue while representing Malaysia at a working dinner in an Asean foreign ministers' retreat in Nha Trang, Vietnam.

He added that any repatriation must be done through consultation with the Rohingyas and that Malaysia would continue with its humanitarian assistance in the Rakhine state, Bangladesh, as well as in Malaysia.

He cited the current challenges to return for the Rohingyas, for example, those who are in Cox Bazar, saying that there was a trust deficit against the Myanmar government, which has to be addressed accordingly.

"It is imperative that region-wide prioritisation on the Rohingyas' right to a free, decent and dignified life, by creating conducive conditions for human security and inclusive development for all communities and increasing humanitarian access, is essential before repatriation should be pushed further," he said.

"This includes solutions for education, livelihood, economic empowerment, and recognition of cultural and religious identity.

"In this regard, while the likelihood of Rohingya refugees returning remains unlikely and dangerous, the Myanmar government should first provide citizenship to the Rohingyas within its borders, estimated at some 500,000," he added.

The foreign minister said that at the same time, the civil war in the Rakhine state needs to be addressed by Asean if the long-term status of Rohingyas is to be fully resolved.

"The discourse should be expanded beyond immediate return to a comprehensive discussion on the complexities of the conflict in the Rakhine state.

"China's economic and political interest in the Rakhine state and its strong bilateral relations with Myanmar presents an opportunity to influence the latter towards a more creative and comprehensive approach.

"Asean should constructively engage China and Myanmar, together with Bangladesh," said Saifuddin. 


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