Malaysia's efforts on Rohingya pays off, Tillerson heading to Myanmar Wednesday

MANILA: Malaysia's efforts to highlight the plight of the Rohingya minority ethnic group in Myanmar has paid off.

It has received the attention of the international community, including superpowers, with the latest development being that United States Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson is set to visit Myanmar beginning Wednesday.

Prime Minister Datuk Najib Abdul Razak said Tillerson told him during the Asean-East Asia Summit here that he would be heading to Myanmar to look into the Rohingya issue and find ways to overcome the ongoing refugee crisis.

"Since we championed the plight of the Rohingya, many countries have joined us to discuss the issue. It appears the United States also views the matter very seriously since I raised it during my meeting with President Donald Trump in Washington," he told journalists covering the 31st Asean Summit and Related Summits, here Tuesday.

More than 600,000 Rohingya in Rakhine state in Myanmar have fled to Bangladesh following attacks on the community by the Myanmar military and civilians since Oct 25, purportedly to flush out armed militants among them.

Najib also said that he had stressed to the leaders of Asean and its dialogue partners that the Rohingya issue not only concerned the question of humanity, but also security because the refugee crisis can become a breeding ground for Daesh terrorists if not handled well.

Earlier this month, a delegation from the US State Department had visited Myanmar to see for themselves the situation there and the efforts to extend humanitarian aid in badly needed areas, as well as visit Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, which has the highest concentration of Rohingya refugees.

On Monday, Najib said that Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who headed the Myanmar delegation to the summits, had stated that her government was in negotiations with Bangladesh on the repatriation of the refugees.

Najib said Suu Kyi had also stated the readiness of her government to cooperate with agencies extending humanitarian aid to Rohingya who are still in Rakhine state.

The Prime Minister once again stressed that he welcomed the move by Myanmar, but wanted to wait for the details of the Memorandum of Understanding it will sign with Bangladesh on the conditions for Rohingya refugees to return to their homes.

He said that they (leaders) were made to understand that the MOU would be finalised in three weeks time. — Bernama