YANGON: Myanmar has acknowledged asking Malaysia to try to prevent Malaysian nongovernment organisations from sending an aid flotilla to help “a specific community” in restive Rakhine State, a reference to the Rohingya Muslim minority.
The Foreign Ministry said it had told the Malaysian Embassy it “would be grateful if the government of Malaysia could kindly take necessary measures to prevent the reported attempt by certain NGOs to send aid flotilla, which cannot be allowed to enter without prior approval from the government of Myanmar”.
It said that while Myanmar welcomed humanitarian assistance from the governments of fellow Asean member states, such aid should be for “both communities in Rakhine State without any discrimination and the proposal should be made through the proper diplomatic channel”.
By “both communities”, it was referring also the Rakhine Buddhist community.
The latest round of violence in Rakhine began on Oct 9 when armed assailants, presumed to be Rohingya, attacked border police stations and outposts, killing nine officers and seizing weapons and ammunition.
The military has since responded with “clearance operations”, raiding Rohingya villages in the search for suspects and making hundreds if not thousands of arrests, causing tens of thousands of people to flee their homes.
There have been widespread allegations of rape and other abuses but the claims are difficult to verify because access to the area is tightly controlled.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak has decried the violence against Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya minority.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, as of the end of October last year, there were 150,669 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with its office in Malaysia, almost 90% of whom were from Myanmar. Of those, 40%, or 54,856, were ethnic Rohingya.