Asean ministers condemn 'all acts of violence' in Rakhine

A Rohingya refugee carries firewood in a camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on Sept 22, 2017.
A Rohingya refugee carries firewood in a camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on Sept 22, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

Asean foreign ministers have condemned "all acts of violence" in Myanmar's Rakhine state that have caused the loss of lives, destruction of homes and displacement of large numbers of people.

The ministers, in New York for the United Nations General Assembly, in a statement after their meeting on Saturday, urged all parties "to avoid actions that will further worsen the situation on the ground".

Hours later, Malaysia said it was disassociating itself from the Asean statement.

"Malaysia would like to disassociate itself from the Chairman's Statement as we are of the view that it is a misrepresentation of the reality of the situation," Foreign Minister Anifah Aman said in a strongly worded statement. The Philippines is the current Asean chair.

Datuk Seri Anifah said Malaysia's concerns were not reflected in the Asean statement: "Hence, the Chairman Statement was not based on consensus. The statement also omits the Rohingya as one of the affected communities." He said while Malaysia condemns attacks against Myanmar security forces on Aug 25 by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, subsequent "clearance operations" by the Myanmar authorities were "disproportionate" and led to the deaths of many civilians and caused more than 400,000 Rohingya to flee to Bangladesh.

"Malaysia expressed grave concerns over such atrocities which have unleashed a full-scale humanitarian crisis that the world simply cannot ignore but must be compelled to act on," Mr Anifah said.

In the Asean statement, the foreign ministers noted that the situation in Rakhine state "is a complex inter-communal issue with deep historical roots".

"They are agreed that viable and long-term solutions to the root causes of the conflict must be found, including encouraging closer dialogue between Myanmar and Bangladesh, so that the affected communities can rebuild their lives," it said.

The statement also underscored the importance of increased humanitarian access to the affected areas and that assistance be given to all affected communities.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 25, 2017, with the headline 'Asean ministers condemn 'all acts of violence' in Rakhine'. Subscribe