Parliament: Singapore encourages all sides to work together on long-term solution to Rohingya crisis

Members of minority Muslim Rohingyas gather for the arrival of a delegation of UN officials and foreign diplomats in Ale Than Kyaw village in Maungdaw, Myanmar's Rakhine State on Nov 3, 2016.
Members of minority Muslim Rohingyas gather for the arrival of a delegation of UN officials and foreign diplomats in Ale Than Kyaw village in Maungdaw, Myanmar's Rakhine State on Nov 3, 2016. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - Singapore continues to encourage all parties, including the Myanmar government and the international community, to work together to foster a long term-solution to the Rohingya refugee crisis.

This is so that the affected communities can rebuild their lives, Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan told Parliament on Monday (Jan 9).

He was responding to questions from Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) and Mr Faisal Manap (Aljunied GRC). They asked about Singapore's response to the plight of Rohingya Muslims fleeing the military crackdown in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

Singapore's position is that every government must ensure the safety and protection of all its people regardless of race or religion, said Dr Balakrishnan.

At the same time, it is also the right and the responsibility of every state to secure its borders and to maintain internal security, the minister added.

He noted that issues of race, language and religion in every country, including Singapore, are sensitive and complex.

And in Rakhine state, inter-communal relations are highly complicated with longstanding historical roots, he added.

"These issues are not going to be resolved easily or quickly in the short term. Patience, restraint and time will be required to build trust among the different stakeholders and communities, foster racial harmony, and to restore peace and stability," he said.

In December, Singaporeans also raised more than $350,000 for humanitarian support to affected communities in the Rakhine state, as well as those affected by the earthquake in Aceh.

"The funds for the Rakhine state will be channelled through Myanmar-based organisations to assist all affected communities, regardless of ethnicity and religion," said the minister.

Dr Balakrishnan also updated MPs on the Asean foreign ministers' informal meeting he attended in Myanmar on Dec 19 last year (2016). Then, Myanmar's state counsellor and foreign affairs minister Aung San Suu Kyi briefed her counterparts on the Rakhine situation.

He said that the meeting was timely and useful in helping Asean better understand Myanmar's efforts to address the complex situation, and that there was an open, frank and constructive exchange of views.

The meeting focused on making sure that humanitarian aid would reach the communities in need, said Dr Balakrishnan. 

He added that after the meeting, the Myanmar government expressed readiness to grant necessary humanitarian access and to continue to keep Asean informed of developments in the Rakhine state.