Indonesia calls for interfaith dialogue in Rakhine

As head of Advisory Commission on Rakhine visits Indonesia, foreign minister prepares for long-term cooperation

Indonesia calls for interfaith dialogue in Rakhine

World Bulletin / News Desk

Eighteen months after a regional boat crisis saw Indonesia promise to help develop Myanmar's impoverished state of Rakhine, Jakarta has underlined the need for interfaith dialogue between the state's two communities as it seeks to evade further disaster.

The call was made after a 30-minute meeting in Bali between Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and the head of a commission tasked with finding solutions to a series of ongoing problems in the area, which have seen protesters take to the streets of Jakarta in anger at the deaths of anywhere between 91 and 400 people.

On Thursday, Widodo told former secretary general of the United Nations Kofi Annan that Indonesia would immediately send logistical assistance.

"We have talked a lot, in which he [Annan] expressed the steps we need to take to help humanity in Rakhine," said Widodo after a 30-minute trilateral meeting.

"I have also instructed my minister to prepare and deliver assistance as quickly as possible," he was quoted as saying by kompas.com.

Since the Oct. 9 deaths of nine Myanmar border police officials in northern Rakhine, Rohingya advocacy groups claim around 400 Rohingya have been killed in military operations, while Myanmar says 91 people -- 17 soldiers and 74 alleged "attackers" (including four who died during interrogation) -- have died.

Myanmar soldiers have also been accused of numerous human rights violations -- including sexual assaults -- in the area while conducting subsequent clearance operations.

Widodo -- the president of the world's most populous Muslim nation -- said Thursday that in addition to logistical support, his government is preparing infrastructure development projects to help residents of Rakhine.

"Food and blankets are needed immediately. But of course there will be further aid that could be used for buildings, such as schools," said Widodo.

The day after returning from a two-day trip to Myanmar, Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi said the ministry had received instructions from the president to prepare for long-term cooperation.

"We have discussed with [Myanmar] State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi that we will give the provisions in improving [their] capacity in the field of democracy and good governance, and also human rights," said Marsudi.

"We will also work together on interfaith dialogue, because it involves horizontal conflict between communities," she underlined.

Rohingya have been fleeing Myanmar in droves since mid-2012 after communal violence broke out in Rakhine between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya -- described by the UN as among the most persecuted minority groups worldwide.

The violence left around 57 Muslims and 31 Buddhists dead, some 100,000 people displaced in camps and more than 2,500 houses razed -- most of which belonged to Rohingya.

On May 21, 2015, Indonesia offered to help develop the impoverished state in response to a regional boat crisis, which saw thousands of Rohingya and Bangladeshi migrants dumped on its shores.

Marsudi said in 2015 that Myanmar's government had welcomed "Indonesia's offer to build Rakhine in an inclusive and non-discriminative manner".

Many of the migrants subject to the boat crisis were Rohingya originating from Rakhine fleeing Myanmar.

Since 2015, the Rohingya's situation has little improved with most still living in displaced persons camps in northern Rakhine where they are banned from returning to the homes and villages they lived in prior to the 2012 riots.

They were also not allowed to stand or vote in Myanmar's 2015 elections, which Nobel Prize laureate Suu Kyi's party won in a landslide, as Myanmar does not see them as nationals, preferring to refer to them as "Bengali" which suggest they are interlopers from neighboring Bangladesh.

Despite being accused of indifference to the Rohingya and their suffering, Suu Kyi has long said that the situation in Rakhine is economic, not political, as she strives to balance calls for intervention from the international community with anti-Muslim cries from nationalists -- many of whom voted for her party -- back home.

Last Mod: 09 Aralık 2016, 01:05
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