Foreign minister urges Asean members to increase humanitarian aid to Rohingya refugees

Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah today said that one of the main issues brought up by Malaysia during the 34th Asean Summit and Related Summits was the Rohingya crisis. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim
Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah today said that one of the main issues brought up by Malaysia during the 34th Asean Summit and Related Summits was the Rohingya crisis. — Picture by Mukhriz Hazim

BANGKOK, June 22 — Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah today said that one of the main issues brought up by Malaysia during the 34th Asean Summit and Related Summits was the Rohingya crisis.

He said there were three important matters related to the Rohingya crisis that Malaysia highlighted to its Asean counterparts.

“The three things we brought up were bringing the perpetrators to justice, the deportation of Rohingyas and the commitment to increase humanitarian efforts,” he told the Malaysian press at a short press conference here today.

Saifuddin said during a meeting among Asean foreign ministers, Malaysia stressed once again its commitment to handling the Rohingya crisis with the most important factor being bringing those responsible to justice.

“What is the platform to do this is something that needs to be figured out, but it is important that the perpetrators are served justice.

“Whenever the issue of Rohingya comes up, it cannot be separated from the main issue which is citizenship. Malaysia is probably the only country that discusses the citizenship issue.

“In most Asean documents, the word Rohingya is rarely used and it is always referred to as Rakhine state, but Malaysia has been consistent whereby we always use the word Rohingya,” he said.

Saifuddin said the second issue that needs to be focused on is the deportation of Rohingyas.

“Our opinion is that a proper deportation plan and discussions have to be made comprehensively, this should include listening to suggestions from the Rohingyas themselves and also civil society organisations (CSOs) that have been actively carrying out humanitarian work especially in Cox’s Bazar,” he said, referring to the huge refugee camp in Bangladesh.”

Saifuddin said the third focus Malaysia suggested to Asean leaders during the regional meeting was how humanitarian efforts can and should be intensified.

“Malaysia is committed to increasing humanitarian aid that we have been carrying out, one is is Cox’s Bazar and the second is within Malaysia as we have a lot of refugees in our country, so this was brought up last night,” he said. 

Yesterday Dr Mahathir vowed to help Rohingya Muslims seeking refuge in Malaysia, reiterating the call for South-east Asian leaders to “stop the oppression” of the stateless minority group expelled from Myanmar.

Last year, he chastised Myanmar civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi during the Association of South-east Asian Nations’ (Asean) meet in Singapore for defending the military’s crackdown on the Rohingya.

The Rohingya crisis has spun out across the region, with desperate Rohingya taking to boats bound for Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

In recent weeks scores of Rohingya have boarded vessels for Malaysia raising fears of a renewed trafficking route, various media reports have claimed.

More than 740,000 Rohingya have fled Myanmar since August 2017, flooding into neighbouring Bangladesh followed by accounts of rape, mass killings and the razing of villages.

Myanmar refuses to grant them citizenship or basic rights, and refers to them as “Bengali”, inferring that the Rohingya are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

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