Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Burmese, Indonesian presidents discuss Rohingya Crisis

Wednesday, 21 November 2012 15:16 Mizzima News

Burma’s President Thein Sein requested help from Indonesia in resolving the crisis in Rakhine State during a meeting on Tuesday between both countries’ presidents on the sidelines of the current ASEAN summit in Phnom Penh, according to a report on Wednesday in the Jakarta Post.

“Myanmar invited us to help them [in resolving the Rohingya problem], with the President [Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono] indicating his willingness to help in due time,” Indonesia’s presidential spokesman Teuku Faizasyah is quoted as saying.

Faizasyah is reported as saying that Yudhoyono acknowledged to the Burmese President that the issue was a communal conflict, not a religious clash as so often portrayed.

The social problems in Rakhine were indeed very complex, and included education, Thein Sein reportedly said, adding: “Therefore, Myanmar hopes that Indonesia can invest in the Rakhine State to create more jobs.”

The Burmese President’s Office made no mention of Thein Sein’s request for assistance on its website, but did say that Indonesia recognized the Burmese government’s handling of the crisis “by means of peace and stability, and the rule of law and relief and resettlement.

“He [Yudhoyono] expressed his support for Myanmar government’s cooperation policies with UN, NGOs and INGOs,” it said.

Predominantly Muslim Indonesia has long voiced concerns over the Rohingya issue. The country has for years sheltered Rohingya boatpeople who have fled Burma and Bangladesh.

November marks the start of “sailing season,” ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan noted at the Summit this weekend, the time of year when the seas are calm and less dangerous for refugees to attempt the hazardous journey to Malaysia, Indonesia and other third countries.

Earlier this month about 85 people, mostly Rohingyas, died when their vessel sank off the Bangladeshi coast. Several other incidents where boatpeople have been rescued at sea or drowned when their boat sank have been reported in recent weeks. Most survivors said they were trying to reach Malaysia where they would look for work.

Speaking to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the ASEAN conference, Thein Sein promised that his government would take action to resolve the crisis.

The Burmese president—who previously told the UN it should take responsibility for finding homes in third countries for the Rohingyas—on Friday condemned what he called the “senseless violence” between the Muslim Rohingya community and Rakhine Buddhists, and blamed the unrest on extremists.

On Wednesday, November 21, Burma’s Minister for Border Affairs Lt-Gen Thein Htay and UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Ashok Nigam are scheduled to unveil a “Revised Rakhine Response Plan.”

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