Friday, February 27, 2009

Malaysia wants Myanmar to be open about refugee problem


HUA HIN (Thailand) The Star: The problem of Rohingya refugees fleeing from Myanmar has become a regional problem and Malaysia wants the military junta to address the matter.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim raised the issue at the Asean Foreign Ministers informal dinner on Thursday night where he stressed to Myanmar that the problem was immense.

“We need to float this matter as something that Asean must look at and the best level to discuss this is at the foreign ministers level,” he said.

“The difficulties are immense because no one authority is in charge of this exodus. “The data seems be to different from one authority to the other. There are authorities that say Malaysia has no less than 14,000 but these are (just) the registered ones, so there no could be more,” he told Malaysian journalists.

Lately Indonesia has been facing an incoming exodus of Rohingyas after allegations that the Thai navy turned them away from their shores after fleeing from Myanmar.

Dr Rais said Malaysia and Indonesia should be together in voicing the matter to Myanmar which he said appeared to be avoiding the problem.

“Myanmar must understand this is their problem as much as ours,” he said. “We understand these people are encouraged to leave but we do not know the actual story. So we would like Myanmar to be open about it.”

He said that if Myanmar refused to own up to the issue, it would become a worldwide problem and the United Nations might have to step in.

Dr Rais also said Malaysia was working towards getting a separate statement on Gaza to be issued by Asean leaders at the 14th Asean summit this weekend.

The matter was raised at Asean seniors officials meeting Thursday.

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