Malaysia disputes Cayetano's ASEAN chair statement on Rohingya


Posted at Sep 25 2017 10:56 AM | Updated as of Sep 26 2017 12:52 AM

Malaysia disputes Cayetano's ASEAN chair statement on Rohingya 1
Malaysia's Foreign Minister Anifah Aman addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, US. Eduardo Munoz, Reuters

DFA: Philippines respects Malaysia's stand

MANILA (UPDATED) - Malaysia has opposed the statement issued by Foreign Secretary and current Association of South East Asian Nations Chair Alan Peter Cayetano on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, calling it a "misrepresentation of reality."

Cayetano over the weekend issued a statement on behalf of the foreign ministers of ASEAN, of which Myanmar is a member, expressing concern over recent developments in the Northern Rakhine State of Myanmar, condemning the attacks against Myanmar security forces on last August 25 and "all acts of violence which resulted in loss of civilian lives, destruction of homes and displacement of large numbers of people."

The statement also urged all parties to avoid worsening the situation on the ground and called for a "viable and long-term solutions to the root causes of the conflict."

But in a rare show of disagreement by a member of the 10-nation bloc known for building consensus among themselves, Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said Malaysia disassociated itself from the statement as it misrepresented "the reality of the situation."

Aman said Cayetano's statement "was not based on consensus" and that Malaysia made known its concerns but were not reflected in it.

He noted, the statement did not identify the Rohingya as one of the affected communities.
"While Malaysia condemns the attacks against Myanmar security forces on 25 August 2017 launched by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), the subsequent ‘clearance operations’ efforts by Myanmar authorities was disproportionate in that it has led to deaths of many innocent civilians and caused more than 400,000 Rohingyas to be displaced," his statement read.

"We express grave concerns over such atrocities which have unleashed a full-scale humanitarian crisis that the world simply cannot ignore but must be compelled to act upon," he added.

Aman said Malaysia urges the government of Myanmar to "end the violence, stop the destruction to lives and properties, allow immediate unimpeded access for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Rohingyas and all affected communities, and to resolve the Rohingya refugee problem."

"Viable and long-term solutions to the root causes of the conflict must be found in order for the Rohingyas and the affected communities to be able to rebuild their lives," he added, noting that Malaysia has dispatched humanitarian aid to Bangladesh and "will continue to do more."

DFA: Philippines, as DFA chair, tolerates dissenting voices

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), without mentioning the word "Rohingya," later said in a statement that it respects the position of Malaysia on the "Rakhine issue," as well as its decision to disassociate itself from the ASEAN chairman's statement that Cayetano issued. 

The DFA said that the Philippines, as ASEAN chair, "has to respect and take into account the sentiments of the other members of the 10-member regional bloc."

"ASEAN is deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in the northern Rakhine State and since Malaysia has different views on some issues, out of respect for its position, we decided that instead of a Foreign Ministers Statement, we would issue a Chairman's Statement that would reflect the general sentiments of the other foreign ministers," the DFA said. 

It added that the Philippines, as this year's ASEAN Chair, "is allowed a certain level of flexibility in formulating the ASEAN chairman’s statement on various issues."

"In the Chairman's Statement, the foreign ministers condemned the attacks against Myanmar security forces and 'all acts of violence which resulted in loss of civilian lives, destruction of homes and displacement of large numbers of people,'” the DFA said. "The Chairman's Statement acknowledged that the situation in Rakhine State is a complex inter-communal issue with deep historical roots.” 

The DFA said the ASEAN chairman’s statement "also urged all parties to 'avoid actions that will further worsen the situation on the ground.'"

"The Philippines as chair tolerates the public manifestation of dissenting voices," the DFA said. "This demonstrates a new level of maturity on how we implement ASEAN's consensus principle when confronted with issues affecting national interests."

Muslim-majority Indonesia and Malaysia have expressed concern about the situation, with Malaysia in particular being critical of Myanmar.

Myanmar objects to the term Rohingya, saying the Muslims of Rakhine State are not a distinct ethnic group but illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

This month, Malaysia summoned Myanmar's ambassador to express displeasure over the violence in the state. It also "expressed grave concerns over such atrocities which have unleashed a full-scale humanitarian crisis."

Violence began in the Buddhist-majority country on August 25 when militants from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) attacked about 30 police posts and an army camp, killing about 12 people.

The United Nations has described as ethnic cleansing a sweeping government offensive in the north of Rakhine State in response to those militant attacks.

Myanmar's government says about 400 people, most of them insurgents have been killed since then. Some 430,000 Muslim Rohingya have also fled to Bangladesh.

Myanmar leader, Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, said anyone responsible for abuses in troubled Rakhine State would face the law, and she felt deeply for the suffering of everyone caught up in conflict there. - with Reuters