A Rohingya refugees woman drinks water while crossing the Naf River with an improvised raft to reach Bangladesh in Teknaf, Bangladesh. REUTERS

MANILA: Malaysia’s relentless efforts in raising the plight of the Rohingya Muslim minority in Rakhine state have borne fruit when Myanmar gave its commitment to resolve the issue at the 31st Asean Summit and Related Summits, here.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, during the Summit’s plenary session today, agreed that there must be a long-term solution, based on trust and harmony, to the issue - which has seen more than 600,000 Rohingyas displaced from their homes following the intensified crackdown on them since August.

“However Suu Kyi admitted it will take some time to resolve this and a lot needs to be done.

“Suu Kyi also is also committed to extend Myanmar’s cooperation in allowing humanitarian aid to help the Rohingyas in Rakhine,” he told the Malaysian media here.


Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak speaks to Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi during the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit and Related Meetings. Bernama pic.

Najib said Suu Kyi also gave her commitment on Myanmar’s willingness to discuss with the Bangladeshi government to repatriate Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh back to Rakhine.

“Both governments are now discussing to prepare a Memorandum of Understanding on the matter, which is expected to be signed soon.

“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,” he said, adding that it also showed that Malaysia’s pursuit on the issue had yielded results.

Malaysia has been at the forefront in raising the plight of the Rohingya Muslim minority at both regional and international levels.

Najib, however, said close scrutiny must be accorded to conditions of the MoU to ensure that it is a fair and not lopsided (towards Myanmar’s government).

He said Suu Kyi also accepted the final report from the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State chaired by Kofi Annan, a product of one year of consultations held in the region.

The final report, chaired by Annan who is also former Secretary-General of the United Nations, includes recommendations specifically on citizenship verification, rights and equality before the law, documentation, the situation of the internally displaced, and freedom of movement, which affect the Muslim population disproportionally.

Najib said during the session, he also raised the need for Asean countries to implement and realise the Asean Community Vision 2025 to ensure stability and peace so that the region would not be left behind in all aspects, including its economy.

“Asean need to win to hearts and minds of its people by adopting the value of moderation in dealing with issues, including terrorism, violence and Islamic State propaganda.”

He said he also urged for the dispute in the South China Sea to be resolved based on rule of law, maximum self-restraint, peaceful and constructive manner as well as in full compliance to the 2002 Declaration of Conduct (DOC).

He said China had given its commitment to adopt DOC and to work toward concluding the negotiations for the proposed Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

“China has also regarded that the South China Sea is the anchor of peace and stability in the region and committed to share its future with Asean.”

Najib said he also highlighted his support for Asean’s cooperation with China and the need for it to be further expanded, especially in tourism sector, as the country with its economy growing at 6.9 per cent could be the engine of growth for the region, adding that China's Belt and Road Initiative, for example, had benefitted Asean countries in many aspects.

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