RI ready to fight for Rohingya


Margareth S. Aritonang and Bagus BT Saragih, The Jakarta Post, Tue, July 31 2012

Marty Natalegawa: (JP/Arief Suhardiman)Marty Natalegawa: (JP/Arief Suhardiman)

In his first official statement regarding the prolonged communal violence in western Myanmar between Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims, Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said that Indonesia would raise the problem at the Extraordinary Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, scheduled for mid-August.

Marty said that Indonesia would emphasize its opposition to any kind of human rights violations, including the violence against the Rohingya in Myanmar.

“We must highlight, again, that Indonesia has consistently rejected discrimination based on religion, ethnicity, or any other reason. Our stance also applies to the ongoing attacks against the Rohingya in Myanmar,” Marty told reporters at his office.

Marty also insisted that Indonesia would not sit idly by while western Myanmar burns.

He said that Indonesia had sent an envoy to Bangladesh and Myanmar in 2010 to investigate the conflict between the Rohingya and the Rakhine after refugees from the conflict poured in into the country.

“We have always brought the issue into multilateral and bilateral discussions with Myanmar. So it’s not true that we don’t care. Our silence doesn’t mean we don’t care,” Marty said.

Data from the Foreign Ministry said that 394 Rohingya have sought refugee status in Indonesia, 124 of whom were ready to be resettled in third party countries. The remaining 199 displaced persons are sheltered in a number of refugee camps in the country.

“We always open our door for anyone who needs our help,” Marty said.

Separately, presidential spokesman Julian Aldrin Pasha said that the Indonesian government would not comment on granting political asylum status to the Rohingya who had arrived in the country.

“I have no statement with regard to that,” Julian said at the Presidential Office on Monday.

Hundreds of the ethnic Muslim have fled Myanmar for several nearby states, including Indonesia.

The United Nations claims there are about 800,000 Rohingya in Myanmar, and considers them among the most persecuted minorities in the world.

At least 78 people have been killed in communal violence there in the last month.

Reports say the Rohingya are currently stranded in the Riau Islands, with some in other locations around West and East Java. They left Myanmar to seek safety and asylum from the Indonesian government, with some apparently hoping to continue on to Australia for the same purpose. They are reportedly surviving in poor conditions, lacking food and other basic necessities.

When asked what the government would do about the situation, Julian said the administration had taken all possible measures, but for the time being, Indonesia could only use diplomacy. “The government has been trying its best in our diplomatic efforts with Myanmar. Hopefully these efforts will stop the violence,” he said.

“Our position is clear: we will make any possible diplomatic efforts to help our Rohingya brothers,” Julian added.

Myanmar, meanwhile, has denied the communal conflict was motivated by religion and rejected any effort to bring an international presence into the conflict.

“Peace and stability is indispensable for the on-going democratization and reform process in Myanmar. National solidarity and racial harmony among different nationalities is vital for the perpetuation of the Union. Myanmar is a multi-religious country where Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and Hindus have been living together in peace and harmony for centuries, hence recent incidents in Rakhine State are neither because of religious oppression nor discrimination,” Myanmar’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement.

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