Indonesia sends aid to Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine

Myanmar will take back more than 2,400 citizens from Bangladesh next year

Indonesian President Joko Widodo (in batik shirt) inspecting an aid consignment destined for Myanmar's Rakhine state at the Tanjung Priok Port on Thursday. Ten freight containers filled with instant noodles, baby food, wheat, cereals and sarongs were
Indonesian President Joko Widodo (in batik shirt) inspecting an aid consignment destined for Myanmar's Rakhine state at the Tanjung Priok Port on Thursday. Ten freight containers filled with instant noodles, baby food, wheat, cereals and sarongs were dispatched that day.PHOTO: FACEBOOK PAGE OF PRESIDENT JOKO WIDODO

JAKARTA • Indonesia has officially sent humanitarian aid to the ethnic Rohingya minority in Rakhine state, Myanmar, national news agency Antara reported.

Speaking at the launch event at Tanjung Priok Port in North Jakarta, President Joko Widodo said: "I hope the Rohingya ethnic minority in the Rakhine state will find peace with the various efforts we have made and will continue to make for them."

Ten freight containers filled with instant noodles, baby food, wheat, cereals and sarongs were dispatched on Thursday. These items were requested following several discussions between Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi and the government of Myanmar.

Violence has escalated in the impoverished Rakhine state after nine border guards were killed in coordinated attacks in October. In the ensuing crackdown by the Myanmar military, an estimated 50,000 Rohingya Muslims have been displaced, with most fleeing to Bangladesh.

Yesterday, Myanmar said it will take back 2,415 of its citizens next year, a fraction of the 300,000 Rohingya that Bangladesh claims are Myanmar citizens who should be repatriated from Bangladesh.

  • 50,000

    Estimated number of Rohingya Muslims displaced in the crackdown by the Myanmar military, following violence in the Rakhine state after nine border guards were killed in October.

    200

    Tonnes of rice, medical aid and other essential supplies expected to be delivered by Malaysia, but not on a government-to-government basis.

Mr Joko, who was accompanied by Ms Retno and State Secretary Pratikno, highlighted the importance of diplomacy in solving humanitarian crises.

"Indonesia's diplomacy has achieved the task without unnecessary uproar. Our compassion and care have been conveyed," he said, according to news site Jakarta Globe.

This was a veiled reference to neighbouring country Malaysia's "megaphone diplomacy", where Prime Minister Najib Razak referred to the unrest in Rakhine as "genocide".

Malaysia also called for the 10-country bloc Asean to coordinate humanitarian aid and investigate alleged atrocities committed against the Rohingya.

In contrast, Jakarta Globe reported that Ms Retno personally met Myanmar's de facto leader, Ms Aung San Suu Kyi, earlier this month to express concerns over violence against Rohingya Muslims and request that humanitarian aid from Indonesia be accepted.

A HELPING HAND

I hope the Rohingya ethnic minority in the Rakhine state will find peace with the various efforts we have made and will continue to make for them... Indonesia's diplomacy has achieved the task without unnecessary uproar. Our compassion and care have been conveyed.

INDONESIAN PRESIDENT JOKO WIDODO

Malaysia will also offer aid - in the form of a "food flotilla" - which will leave for Rakhine on Jan 10. It is expected to deliver almost 200 tonnes of rice, medical aid and other essential supplies.

Unlike Indonesia, this consignment has not been arranged on a government-to-government basis.

The flotilla is organised by the Malaysian Consultative Council of Islam Organisations (Mapim), Kelab Putra 1Malaysia and a coalition of non-governmental organisations from the region.

Mapim secretary-general Zulhanis Zainol said there are three scenarios the flotilla could face - it could be allowed to land and hand over the supplies, told to turn back in Myanmar waters, or be attacked by Myanmar security forces.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2016, with the headline 'Indonesia sends aid to Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine'. Print Edition | Subscribe