BANGKOK • Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has called for a special informal meeting with foreign ministers of Asean. It is set for next Monday in Yangon to discuss international concerns over the situation in Rakhine state, Nikkei Asian Review said yesterday.
The call for the meeting was made during an informal gathering of senior Asean officials in Bali over the weekend, the report said.
It was the first time the Myanmar government has responded to growing international criticism of Ms Suu Kyi for not stopping the military's campaign against the country's Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine.
More than 20,000 Rohingya have fled over the border to Bangladesh, bringing tales of mass rape, murder and arson. Their claims were denied by government officials.
The military's brutal crackdown followed attacks on Oct 9 by Muslim militants on police posts along the Myanmar border with Bangladesh.
Ms Suu Kyi had earlier described the situation as being "under control" and asked the international community to stop stoking the "fires of resentment".
Nikkei said the Bali meeting of the Asean officials was originally called to discuss current global issues, including uncertainty brought about by the incoming United States administration led by Mr Donald Trump.
But the Rohingya issue came up and was discussed.
Both Malaysia and Indonesia - which are Muslim-majority countries - have raised concerns about the ongoing crackdown in Rakhine, with street protests held in the past few weeks in their capital cities.
Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi flew to Naypyitaw last week at Ms Suu Kyi's invitation and conveyed Indonesia's strong concern about the situation in Rakhine.
"Once again, I conveyed Indonesia's concerns to State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi regarding the situation in Rakhine state," Ms Retno told reporters after their meeting, as reported by the Jakarta Post.
Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak joined the opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia president Abdul Hadi Awang at a rally in Kuala Lumpur last week to support the Rohingya.
Datuk Seri Najib said the crackdown on the Rohingya has direct impact on Malaysia, as tens of thousands of them have over the years arrived in Malaysia to escape persecution, by boat and through Thailand.
Malaysia has more than 56,000 Rohingya and Myanmar refugees registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, with thousands more undocumented.
Last week, a United Nations official urged Ms Suu Kyi to visit Rakhine. UN special adviser on Myanmar Vijay Nambiar wrote in a statement from New York: "The adoption of a generally defensive rather than proactive approach to providing security to the local population has caused frustration locally and disappointment internationally.
"I also appeal to Daw Suu to visit Maungdaw and Buthidaung, and reassure the civilian population there that they will be protected."