Malaysian minister meets Myanmar interfaith leaders over Rohingya

Saifuddin Abdullah Malaysia’s foreign minister

Malaysia’s foreign minister has held a meeting with interfaith leaders in Myanmar to discuss the prospect of Rohingya refugees returning to Rakhine State.

Myint Swe, a Buddhist and president of Religions for Peace-Myanmar, said the meeting with Saifuddin Abdullah in Yangon on April 7 discussed the Rohingya issue and allowed interfaith leaders to debate the repatriation process.

“We talked about how Malaysia and ASEAN can facilitate repatriation and provide physical support for returning refugees,” Myint Swe told He said the Malaysian minister acknowledged that the Rakhine issue is complex in terms of religion and politics.

Hla Tun, a Hindu leader from Yangon, said he told Saifuddin about Hindu refugees who wanted to return to Rakhine but were disappointed by the delay. Hindu refugees who remain in camps in Bangladesh face another obstacle with renewed fighting in Rakhine.

On April 8, Saifuddin met with Myanmar’s State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi in capital Naypyitaw to discuss the Rohingya issue. They exchanged views on the latest situation in Rakhine and how Malaysia and ASEAN could assist Myanmar in facilitating repatriation of verified displaced persons, according to the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper on April 9.

In January, ASEAN’s foreign ministers endorsed a decision to send a team to Myanmar to assess people’s needs and support the repatriation process. More than 700,000 Rohingya fled to Bangladesh after a military crackdown that began in August 2017 following attacks on security personnel by Rohingya militants.

A UN Fact-Finding Mission found that Myanmar’s military committed four of the five acts constituting genocide against the Rohingya. It said Min Aung Hlaing and five other senior generals must be prosecuted for genocide and war crimes against humanity.

Bangladesh and Myanmar agreed to send the first batch of more than 2,000 people back home last November, but the move was delayed when many of the refugees refused to return out of fear for their safety. Rakhine has seen outbursts of fighting in recent weeks between the military and the Arakan Army, a mostly Buddhist insurgent group that seeks autonomous rule for the state.

At least 26,000 civilians have been forced to flee their homes and take shelter at monasteries, schools and nearby communities, according to the U.N.


Roghingya refugees

Rohingya refugees from Myanmar in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. UAE doctors are providing medical aid to thousands of displaced people. Cathal McNaughton / Reuters

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