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KOTA SAMARAHAN: For the first time in the history of ASEAN, Malaysia, who is a member state has chose to disassociate itself from the ASEAN Chairman’s Statement on the situation concerning the Rohingya Muslim minority in the Rakhine State of Myanmar.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said although Malaysia had made known its concerns on the crisis by fighting for the human rights and dignity of the Rohingya, they were not reflected in the Chairman’s Statement, calling it “misrepresentation of the reality of the situation”.
“The Chairman’s Statement was not based on consensus. The statement, among others, failed to acknowledge the Rohingya’s ethnic identity; it glossed over the issue of accountability; misleading in the sense that it apportioned all the blame to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army; and the situation should be termed as a humanitarian crisis rather than a humanitarian situation,” Anifah said when addressing the ‘Issues and Challenges in Managing Malaysia’s Foreign Relations’ dialogue session at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (UNIMAS) yesterday.
Anifah added that there are legitimate concerns that the situation could possibly stoke terrorist sentiments, threatening security in Southeast Asia.
“With Daesh losing its stronghold in the Middle East, Southeast Asia is a next target for their base and a crisis like this affecting the region would make it fertile ground for the spreading of terrorist narratives,” he said.
Malaysia’s position on the Rohingya issue has been consistent and that the matter is no longer a domestic conflict.
Base on recent experience, it shows that if not addressed, it will result in a full-blown regional humanitarian crisis resulting in hundreds of thousands more fleeing Myanmar in fear of persecution, to neighbouring countries including Malaysia.
Additionally, the international community, including the United Nations has categorised the Myanmar government’s actions as ethnic cleansing.
“Malaysia has always maintained good bilateral relations with Myanmar and has no desire to interfere in its domestic affairs. We also maintain good relations with our other fellow ASEAN Member States.
“However, the magnitude of the problem as well as the staggering effects warrant action and not mere lip service. That being said, Malaysia stands ready to assist Myanmar in finding a just, durable solution to the protracted issue in Rakhine State,” Anifah said.
As a nation, he added that Malaysia has undertaken various initiatives to defend the plight of the Rohingyas.
To name a few, Malaysia hosted the Extraordinary Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers on the Situation of the Rohingya Muslim Minority in Myanmar in Kuala Lumpur on Jan 19.
“We are also currently focusing on the aspect of humanitarian aid to Rohingyas through NGOs, as well as possibly establishing a field hospital at a refugee camp in Bangladesh. We walk the talk,” he said.
When pressed for more details on the field hospital, Anifah said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi will make the announcement soon.