Indonesian sends humanitarian aid to Burma

An Indonesian humanitarian mission reached Burma’s Rakhine state on August 30th with sarongs, hygiene kits and blankets for Muslims and Buddhists affected by recent violence.

11 Sept, Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

Now that Burma has opened its doors to humanitarian aid for the displaced in Rakhine state, a seven-tonne shipment from Indonesia has been distributed in its biggest city, Sittwe.

  • A man carries his child as people gather to receive aid at a camp for Rohingyas displaced by recent violence, outside Sittwe, Burma, on June 15th. In late August, the Indonesian Red Cross sent seven tonnes of humanitarian aid to Muslims and Buddhists in Burma's Rakhine state [Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters] A man carries his child as people gather to receive aid at a camp for Rohingyas displaced by recent violence, outside Sittwe, Burma, on June 15th. In late August, the Indonesian Red Cross sent seven tonnes of humanitarian aid to Muslims and Buddhists in Burma’s Rakhine state [Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]

Organised by the Indonesian Red Cross (Palang Merah Indonesia/PMI) in co-operation with the Burmese Red Cross, the aid was transported to Sittwe aboard the MV-Sein Minn Thar ship and an Air Mandalay Fokker airplane.

In a press release from Sittwe on August 30th, Arifin M. Hadi, chief of the PMI mission to Burma, said the Burmese Red Cross had granted PMI wide access to the shelters where the displaced are housed, and that the Rakhine local government had endorsed the mission.

"Our mission is neutral and independent. We are reaching out to those in need, and we have been granted access to assist displaced people from both the Buddhist and Muslim Rohingya communities," Arifin said.

PMI chairman Jusuf Kalla dispatched the eight-member team on August 25th from Jakarta’s Halim Perdanakusuma air base. In the first phase of its mission, through August 31st, the team set about distributing 500 hygiene kits, 10,000 sarongs, and 3,000 blankets to the Muslim Rohingya and Arakan Buddhist communities affected by the bloody conflict that erupted in June and claimed roughly 80 lives.

Aulia Arriani, a spokeswoman for PMI, told Khabar the hygiene kits were taken from PMI’s standby stocks of standard items for people affected by conflicts and disasters.

Kalla is now expected to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Burmese Red Cross regarding the second phase of assistance, she indicated.

OIC also involved in providing aid

The Burmese government, she noted, has so far only granted access for humanitarian missions organised by the PMI and the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC).

The access was granted after Kalla’s visit to Burma on August 10th in which he led a 10-member delegation that included representatives from the OIC. "Any parties in Indonesia that are willing to provide assistance for people affected by the conflict can channel their aid through PMI," she said.

In a joint statement on August 17th, foreign ministers from the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) said they welcomed the steps the Burmese government had taken to address the domestic issue, including co-operation with UN agencies and non-governmental organisations to address the humanitarian needs of affected communities.

The ASEAN foreign ministers expressed "their readiness to lend necessary support in addressing the humanitarian issues in the Rakhine State," according to the statement.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry of Burma, which is also an ASEAN member, said it had been working with the international community for victims’ relief and rehabilitation in "a nondiscriminatory and transparent manner".

"The [Burmese] Government also welcomes international relief assistance if they are nondiscriminatory for both communities," the ministry said in a statement on August 21st.

Rohingya need acknowledgement as citizens

Apart from the PMI mission, another humanitarian team from Indonesia also visited Burma from August 20th to 25th. The team was comprised of four members of Parliament from the staunchly Islamic Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) and two officials from the Social Welfare Ministry, and led by senior PKS politician Hidayat Nur Wahid.

PKS spokesman Mardani Ali Sera told Khabar that the team met with their Burmese parliamentary counterparts and received a warm welcome.

"We visited Burma as Indonesian members of Parliament from the PKS faction. We expressed our concern to our counterparts there regarding this Rohingya problem and hope that it can be resolved through an ASEAN consensus," Ali Sera said.

"We also offered our assistance to bridge communication between Burma and Bangladesh," he added.

The June violence led many Rohingya to flee Rakhine state to neighbouring Bangladesh, which refused to admit them, saying it could not cope with the influx of refugees.

Ali Sera said the PKS team found that what the Muslim Rohingya need most is not financial or material assistance, but acknowledgement as lawful citizens in Burma.

"What they really need is advocacy so that the Burmese government would acknowledge them as rightful citizens," Ali Sera said.

A humanitarian crisis, not a religious conflict Indonesian Buddhists, who make up less than 1% of the population in the majority Muslim nation, applauded the PMI mission.

"We welcome the humanitarian aid sent by PMI sent to the affected communities, regardless of their beliefs. We don’t regard the clash as a religious conflict because it never started as a religious conflict in the first place," said Sumedho, head of the Assembly of Theravada Buddhism Indonesia (Magabudhi).

"It is a humanitarian conflict affecting everyone. We even sent some of our monks to meet with the Buddhist monks there, and they were told that it was never a clash between Muslims and Buddhists," he said.


Rohingya aid ship back on course

September 11, Malaymail

THE Kelab Putera 1Malaysia’s (KP1M) humanitarian mission to help the Rohingyas is back on course.

KP1M president Datuk Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim told The Malay Mail yesterday the mission had received the green light from the Myanmar government.

He was informed of this by a Foreign Affairs Ministry officer at a meeting yesterday.

The ship will dock and transfer the aid at Yangon port and they will be sent to the Rakhine region by road, which is expected to take a day.

Abdul Azeez said they originally planned to dock at Sittwe port, which is closer to where the Rohingyas are camped across the border in neighbouring Bangladesh, but it was under construction.

"We are transporting 500 tonnes of goods while Sittwe port can only accept smaller cargoes. I was told by the Malaysian embassy there that we have to get the Myanmar government’s approval to use the road to Rakhine," he said.

Abdul Azeez declined to say when the ship, which was still docked at the Lumut naval base in Perak, would set sail.

"We have to wait for all the procedures to be completed," he said.

The humanitarian mission was originally slated to leave for Sittwe Port on Sept 5 and return on Sunday after sending aid to refugees living in camps in Kutupalong, and in Nayapara, near Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. It was reported the Bangladeshi government would only give clearance once its Myanmar counterparts gave the nod.

The aid, ferried by a crew of 38, comprises foodstuff to amenities such as medicine and wheelchairs, for 30,000 registered Rohingya refugees at the two camps, 40,000 unregistered ones in makeshift camps and 130,000 living in surrounding areas.

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