MANILA: The visit by US Secretary of State U.S Rex Tillerson to Myanmar today to discuss the plight of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine State is yet another proof of Malaysia’s success in rigorously pursuing the issue.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said since Malaysia’s relentless efforts in highlighting the crisis, many Asean leaders during the 31st Asean Summit and Related Summits had raised the issue in their speeches, especially at the 12th East Asia Summit, held yesterday.
“I personally had a chat with Tillerson and he told me that he wanted to see for himself the situation there (Rakhine State) and to discuss with the Myanmar’s government on how to resolve the issue,” Najib told Malaysian media here.
He said he also stressed (to Tillerson) that the issue was not only about on the aspect of humanitarian but also on it having the potential of becoming a security issue if it was not addressed, allowing Islamic State to set its feet in Rakhine state.
Najib also added that Tillerson’s visit also meant that the US took the issue seriously by sending its state secretary to Myanmar today and that Malaysia’s pursuit had yielded results.
“When I met President (Donald) Trump at the White House, I raised the issue with him,” he said.
It was reported that a senior US State Department official told journalists in Manila that Tillerson, in his visit today, would focus on the need to stop the violence and stabilize Rakhine state in his meeting the head of Myanmar’s military today.
More than 600,000 Rohingyas have been displaced from their homes and fled to Bangladesh following the intensified crackdown on them since August, with a top United Nation reportedly describing it as “ethnic cleansing” by Buddhist-majority Myanmar.
It was also reported that Tillerson was due to hold talks with Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, and the head of the armed forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, in Naypyitaw in a bid to stem the refugee crisis.
Najib had on Monday had described Suu Kyi’s agreement during the Summit’s plenary session that that there must be a long-term solution, based on trust and harmony, as a positive development to Malaysia’s efforts in raising the issue, both at the regional and international levels.
“I took this as a clear and positive development to our efforts as Suu Kyi did not commit to all these measures during the 30th Asean Summit in April. It shows Malaysia’s pursuit on the issue has yielded results ,” Najib was quoted as saying.
Apart from the long-term solution, Suu Kyi also had also committed to extend Myanmar’s cooperation in allowing humanitarian aid to help the Rohingyas in Rakhine and to discuss with the Bangladeshi government to repatriate Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh back to Rakhine.
Both Myanmar and Bangladeshi governments are in the midst preparing a Memorandum of Understanding on the repatriation of Rohingya refugees, which is expected to be signed in three weeks.
Najib also told the Malaysian media last night that the MoU between both governments was key to the positive development.
“However, it is still uncertain whether the Myanmar government will accept the conditions set or be very selective,” he said.