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No reason to discuss Rohingya/ Bengalis, says Myanmar Foreign Minister

April 29, 2015

Ahead of the Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Foreign Minister of Myanmar Wunna Maung Lwin said there was no reason to discuss the issue of Rohingya/ Bengali Muslim population at the Asean Summit, despite pressure over the issue.

 

Asean leaders hold hands for the traditional Asean handshake during a retreat session of the 26th Asean Summit at Langkawi International Convention Centre./EPA

 

The minister said: “There is no reason to discuss the Bengali issue. This is an internal issue. We do not recognise the name Rohingya.”

Asked how Myanmar leaders would react to Asean members tabling a proposal to discuss the Rohingya issue, the minister said it would be under discussion.

 

The Bengali issue was highlighted during an Asean meeting held in Myanmar in November 2014. Ahead of the summit, Malaysia was trying to discuss the issue further as a host of Rohingya immigrants have come to Malaysia during its chairmanship.

 

Malaysian foreign minister Anifah Hj. Aman said: “The Rohingya issue has to be resolved within Asean. While we continue to respect the sovereignty of our member states, this issue should be addressed within Asean and through engagement. We hope Myanmar will look for the best way,” on April 24.

 

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Ahmad Badawi also urged for humane treatment of the Rohingya at the Asean People’s Forum.

 

Myanmar Ethnic Rohingyas Human Rights Organization, an organisation formed by Bengali immigrants in Malaysia, released an announcement based on what the Malaysian Foreign Minister and former PM said on April 26, urging Asean leaders to discuss the Rohingya crisis.

 

A representative of the Myanmar government confirmed that the Myanmar foreign minister did not discuss the issue.

 

Aside from the Asean Foreign Ministers Meeting, Asean leaders also convened on April 27 in Langkawi.

 

According to the Straits Times, the South China Sea row dominated the 26th Asean Summit.

 

Asean was cool on Filipino efforts to censure China over reclamation work in disputed areas of the South China Sea, saying yesterday it would instead try to convince the superpower that a confrontation over one of the world’s busiest shipping routes would not benefit the Asian giant.

 

Asean chairman Najib Razak said the organisation would seek to resolve disputes “through peaceful means” even though the Malaysian prime minister stressed “universally recognised principles of international law… and the full adherence to the Declaration of Conduct (DOC)”, a document signed by the four Southeast Asian claimants and China in 2002.

 

Philippine President Benigno Aquino had told leaders of the 10-nation bloc earlier yesterday that “the massive reclamation activities undertaken by China pose a threat to the security and stability of the region”.

 

“It is clear: These massive reclamations are direct violations of the DOC and Unclos, and represent a significant challenge to Asean centrality,” he said, referring to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

 

But Najib told reporters “Asean’s non-confrontational approach has been very effective in ensuring there will be no rising tension in this region”.

 

“China understands our position and we hope to be able to influence China that it is also to their interest not to be seen as confronting Asean. Any attempt to destabilise this region will not benefit China either,” he said at a press conference after the first session of the Asean Summit in the capital, before flying to Langkawi for the second half of the retreat.

 

The Philippines had warned last Saturday that China had reclaimed enough land on two reefs in the Spratly Islands chain in the South China Sea to muscle the Philippines out of the area, and that Beijing will soon take “de facto control” of the disputed waters unless Asean stands up to its much larger neighbour.

 

A new set of high-resolution images – taken on April 13 by satellite mapping firm DigitalGlobe and released last Saturday by current affairs website The Diplomat – shows that in just 10 weeks from February 6, the Chinese have built an island on Subi Reef spanning over 3km.

 

—National Multi Media—-