M'sia wants Asean to probe alleged atrocities in Rohingya
Events in Rakhine State are about regional security, says M'sian foreign minister
YANGON Malaysia said yesterday that the plight of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar was a regional concern and called for Asean to coordinate humanitarian aid and investigate alleged atrocities committed against them.
Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman was speaking at a meeting of the 10-nation bloc in Yangon called by Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, after weeks of reports that the army has killed, raped and arbitrarily arrested Rohingya civilians.
Myanmar has denied the accusations, saying many of the reports are fabricated. It insists that the strife in Rakhine State, where many Rohingya live, is an internal matter, Reuters reported yesterday.
Besides fending off diplomatic pressure over the crisis, the Myanmar government has also invited a media delegation to visit the affected region this week.
Mr Anifah said events in Rakhine State were a matter of regional security and stability, noting that about 56,000 Rohingya now live in Muslim-majority Malaysia, having fled previous unrest in Myanmar.
"We believe that the situation is now of a regional concern and should be resolved together," said Mr Anifah in a transcript of his speech provided by the Malaysian foreign affairs ministry.
Progress in improving the human rights of the Rohingya had been "rather slow", he said, noting the stream of reports about abuses being committed in Rakhine State.
Mr Anifah also warned that Islamic State militants "could be taking advantage of this situation".
The government of predominantly Buddhist Myanmar has said that militants with links to Islamists overseas were behind attacks on security posts near Myanmar's border with Bangladesh, in the north of Rakhine State, on Oct 9.
Myanmar troops have poured into the Muslim-majority area since the attacks that killed nine police officers.
At least 86 people have died and an estimated 27,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since Oct 9.
Refugees, residents and human rights groups say Myanmar soldiers have committed summary executions, raped Rohingya women and burned homes.
The majority of the population in northern Rakhine State are Rohingya Muslims who are denied citizenship in Myanmar, where they are considered illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.
In a statement, the Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, attended an informal Asean Foreign Ministers' Retreat in Yangon yesterday. State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi briefed the ministers on recent developments in Rakhine State.
"The ministers had an open, frank and constructive discussion on the complex situation there, including the provision of humanitarian aid.
"The ministers also exchanged views on how Asean can best assist Myanmar in seeking a viable and long-term solution for the benefit of all the affected communities in Rakhine State," said the statement.