Yearender - Indonesia lends helping hand to Rohingya problem

"Indonesia hoped that condition in the Rakhine State could be normal again with human right protection and respect including the rights of Muslim community there," Retno Marsudi said.
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesia has expressed concern over the problem in Rakhine State in Myanmar, where Muslim Rohingya ethnic minority continuously faces persecution and atrocities.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno LP Marsudi conveyed the concern during her meeting with Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyidaw on Dec.6, 2016.

"Indonesia hoped that condition in the Rakhine State could be normal again with human right protection and respect including the rights of Muslim community there," Retno Marsudi said.

The recent bloodshed in November 2016 was the most serious since hundreds were killed in communal clashes in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine in 2012.

In late 2012, sectarian violence between Rohingya Muslims and Rakhine Buddhists had again broken out and claimed about 200 lives and left at least 110,000 displaced in Rakhine. A vast majority of the victims were Rohingya Muslims.

The 2012 tragedy had prompted the then Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa to visit Myanmar to get first hand information about the problem there.

After the conflict in June 2012, the quality of life of the Rohingya ethnic group had been badly affected, particularly because they have no source of income.

To demonstrate Indonesias sympathy and solidarity, the Indonesian government had donated US$1 million in humanitarian aid to the victims of the ethnic violence in Rakhine State for the construction of their houses.

Indonesia had also been determined to contribute to the creation of mutual trust between the communities involved in the sectarian conflict, and to help promote economic growth in the region, Marty Natalegawa stated.

According to Marty, the Myanmar government was receptive of Indonesias moves to find a solution to the ethnic conflict in Rakhine.

As the persecution against Rohingya by Buddhist extremists in Myanmar repeated, the Indonesian government has once again offered assistance to find a solution.

"Cooperation we are seeking for in the future is through inter-faith dialog. We see Myanmar is very plural, so is Indonesia also very plural," Minister Retno Marsudi said recently on the sidelines of Bali Democracy Forum in Bali.

She had talked with Muslim and Buddhist organizations to promote interfaith cooperation.

"The State Counselor (Daw Aung San Suu Kyi) highly appreciates the role played by Indonesia to help solve problem in Rakhine," she said.

In addition, she said, Indonesia is ready to strengthen cooperation with Myanmar in capacity building for human right respect and democracy.

"Actually this is only a continuation of cooperation which has existed long between Indonesia and Myanmar, as in the context of Bali Democracy Forum, cooperation forum through institute of peace and democracy, we give or plan a number of programs to cooperate with Myanmar," she said.

In addition to, the Indonesian government planned to send humanitarian assistance for the Rohingya.

The plan was revealed to the press following a meeting between President Joko Widodo (Jokowi) and former UN secretary general Kofi Annan in Bali recently.

During the 40-minute meeting, Jokowi and Annan discussed efforts to resolve the Rohingya humanitarian crisis.

"Mr Kofi Annan is chairman of the Advisory Committee for Rakhine State. So we talked extensively about it, and in the discussion, he outlined the necessary steps we need to take to deliver humanitarian aid to Rakhine State," Jokowi told the press.

President Jokowi earlier also said that Indonesia planned to send logistical assistance to the Rohingya in the very near future.

"I have also ordered (the concerned) minister to provide assistance and send it as soon as possible," he noted. The aid consists mainly of food and blankets.

Kofi Annan, who is also chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation, has expressed his appreciation to the Indonesian government for trying to help resolve the Rohingya problem, according to Retno Marsudi.

The minister said Jokowi had asked her to prepare short-term and long-term plans for helping the Rohingya.

"In the long term, several things are needed, and we have discussed these with State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi. They are capacity building for good governance and democracy, as well as respect for human rights. We have implemented this program and will continue it because it is crucial," she stated.

Indonesia itself has been providing temporary shelters for hundreds of Rohingya refugees.

In 2015, more than 1.5 thousand asylum seekers, mostly Rohingyas from Myanmar and some Bangladeshis, were stranded in Indonesian waters after being adrift for over three months at sea while attempting to reach Malaysia or Australia.

The Rohingya minority in Myanmar is described by the United Nations as among the worlds most persecuted community.

The Buddhist majority in Myanmar does not recognize Rohingyas as its citizens and often turns a blind eye to the torture and killings of Rohingyas by some members of the population.

At least 10,000 members of the Muslim ethnic group have been driven across the Bangladeshi border by threat of violence in recent weeks.

Rape, arson and the slaughter of dozens of civilians have also been documented, and a closed military zone has been declared in the northern state of Rakhine, which is home to around 1,400,000 Rohingya.

Aung San Suu Kyi, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and head of Burmas young government, has been called upon by the UN to "listen to her inner voice" and halt the violence against the persecuted Rohingya minority, reported on Dec 9, 2016

"I call upon Daw Aung San Suu Kyi to listen to her inner voice and speak directly to the people of Myanmar," the Special Adviser of the United Nations Secretary-General on Myanmar, Vijay Nambiar, responded in a formal statement.(*)