INTERVENTION ON ROHINGYA AND THE RAKHINE STATE ISSUES AT THE ASEAN FOREIGN MINISTERS’ RETREAT, NHA TRANG, VIETNAM

Malaysia maintains its position on Myanmar – that the perpetrators of the genocide must be brought to justice; repatriation that is voluntary, safe and dignified should happen as quickly as possible through consultation with the Rohingyas; and we will continue humanitarian assistance in the Rakhine state, Bangladesh, as well as in Malaysia.

Given the current challenges to return for the Rohingyas, eg those who are in Cox Bazar, among others due to the trust deficit against the Myanmar government, which has to be addressed accordingly, it is imperative that a region wide prioritisation on the Rohingyas’ right to a free, decent and dignified life ie by creating conducive conditions for human security and inclusive development for all communities and increasing humanitarian access is essential before repatriation should be pushed further. This includes solutions for education, livelihood, economic empowerment and recognition of cultural & religious identity.

In this regard, while the likelihood of return of Rohingya refugees remains unlikely and dangerous, the Myanmar Government should first provide citizenship to the Rohingyas within its borders, estimated at some 500,000.

At the same time, the civil war in the Rakhine state needs to be addressed by ASEAN if the long-term status of Rohingyas is to be fully resolved. The discourse should be expanded beyond immediate return to a comprehensive discussion on the complexities of the conflict in the Rakhine state. China’s economic and political interest in the Rakhine state and its strong bilateral relations with Myanmar presents an opportunity to influence the latter towards a more creative and comprehensive approach. ASEAN should constructively engage China and Myanmar, together with Bangladesh.