World Bulletin / News Desk
Delegates to the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plenary summit on Monday expressed deep concern over the plight of Rohingya Muslims, officials said.
At a press conference on the sidelines of the ASEAN meetings in Manila, Philippine Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi has assured other Southeast Asian nations that her country will facilitate the safe repatriation of Rohingya who fled from Myanmar’s Rakhine state to Bangladesh.
Roque told international and local journalists that the return of the Rohingya to their homeland will reportedly be made three weeks following Myanmar’s agreement with Bangladesh on the matter.
"Myanmar responded; Kofi Annan’s report is being addressed," he said, referring to a report released by the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State led by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan recommending specific actions to address the issue, including citizenship verification, rights and equality before the law, and documentation.
"ASEAN has expressed concern for the Rohingya people,” Roque added.
According to Roque, the Philippines acknowledged the need for relief assistance not only to the displaced families of Marawi City but also the Rohingya refugees.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano confirmed that Myanmar had called on ASEAN for humanitarian assistance and that the Philippines was ready to send help.
“What was very productive about this year’s meeting was Myanmar’s statement that they need help,” Cayetano was quoted as telling reporters.
Cayetano said ASEAN had long been pursuing its approach of not judging Myanmar but offering help to its member-state.
The Philippines had already donated to Myanmar during President Rodrigo Duterte’s official visit to Nay Pyi Taw in March and sent additional humanitarian aid on Oct. 14 under the ASEAN Humanitarian Assistance Center which was launched in February 2016.
Since Aug. 25, an estimated 613,000 people have fled the western state of Rakhine into Bangladesh, according to the UN.
The refugees are fleeing a military operation in which security forces and Buddhist mobs have killed men, women and children, looted homes and torched Rohingya villages.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
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