Aung San Suu Kyi’s briefing of Asean foreign ministers on the situation in Rakhine State concluded today with most participants appearing optimistic about the Myanmar government’s new commitments. Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, however, had stern words for his hosts.
A transcript of the foreign minister’s comments at the retreat released by the Malaysian foreign ministry today acknowledged the establishment of the Central Committee for the Implementation of Peace, Stability and Development (PSCD) headed by Vice President Myint Swe, a former general, and the Rakhine State Advisory Commission headed by Kofi Annan as attempts to investigate the causes of the violence in Rakhine State.
However, the minister continued: “While acknowledging the initiatives taken by the government of Myanmar in trying to improve the situation on the ground, progress have [sic] been rather slow, especially in improving the basic human rights of the Rohingya ethnic minority in the Rakhine State.”
Anifah then called on the Myanmar government to provide timely information and access to the areas affected by violence if it seeks to “dispel these allegations of ‘ethnic cleansing’ or in some cases ‘genocide’”.
According to the ministry’s statement, the foreign minister then urged the regional bloc not to allow a repetition of the crisis of 2015, in which thousands of Rohingya refugees were stranded at sea after trying to escape Rakhine State and had to be rescued (often reluctantly or too late) by Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
At the end of his address, the foreign minister called on Aung San Suu Kyi to “address the root causes affecting the local population, namely that of citizenship and status”.
Singaporean Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan posted on Facebook after the retreat: “The situation in Rakhine State is complex and long-standing. It will take time, mutual trust, goodwill and determination to resolve. We had an open, frank and constructive discussion on how best to help, including the provision of humanitarian aid.”
Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai was quoted by Reuters as saying “everybody was happy” with the meeting.
It a statement released after the retreat, the Myanmar Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the Myanmar government had “reiterated its readiness to grant necessary humanitarian access and to keep Asean members informed of developments in Rakhine State”.