PH respects Malaysia's dissociation from ASEAN statement on Rohingya

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The Philippines says it respects Malaysia's decision to dissociate itself from a statement on Myanmar's Rakhine state issued by Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano as chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Chairman's statement was issued after "extensive consultations" with Malaysia, and that other foreign ministers knew that Malaysia would disassociate itself from the statement.

The chairman's statement condemned the "attacks against Myanmar security forces" and "all acts of violence which resulted in loss of civilian lives, destruction of homes and displacement of large numbers of people".

DFA explained that a chairman's statement was issued precisely because Malaysia had a different view; and, being ASEAN chairman for 2017, the Philippines had a "certain level of flexibility" to formulate a chairman's statement on various key issues.

He also lamented that the chairman's statement omits specific mention of the Rohingya Muslims - a stateless, persecuted and unrecognized ethnic minority in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar - and merely refers to "affected communities".

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Malaysia said the chair's statement included a misrepresentation of the reality on the ground and not the true state of the Rohingya, over 400,000 of whom have fled Myanmar since August 25, when the Myanmar military, attacked by insurgents, vented its ire on Rohingya civilian communities.

On Saturday, Anifah said in an address to the U.N. General Assembly that "horrifying crimes against humanity" were occurring in Rakhine, with "indiscriminate violence" being perpetrated against the Rohingya people.

While expressing concern over the spiraling violence in Myanmar, Cayetano's statement - unlike the predominant thread of reports out of Rakhine showing systematic arson, and even alleged rape of the Rohingya - simply categorized the crisis as a "complex inter-communal issue" with deep historical roots.

Retno was quoted as saying that the chair's statement was expected to reflect the views of each ASEAN member-state, but the final wording was left to Cayetano and no longer needed consensus of the ministers.

This consists of restoring stability and security; maximum restraint and non-violence; protection of all persons regardless of race and religion; and the importance of immediate access to humanitarian assistance.

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Myanmar's government has rejected any use of the term "Rohingya".

"Malaysia expressed grave concerns over such atrocities which have unleashed a full-scale humanitarian crisis that the world simply can not ignore but must be compelled to act on", Mr Anifah said.

"Viable and long-term solutions to the root causes to the conflict must be found in order for the Rohingyas and the affected communities to be able to rebuild their lives". Malaysia's federal Opposition today took the unusual step of siding with the federal government in pressing for regional body Asean to take stronger action against Myanmar over its Rohingya crisis.

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