Location Malaysia Malaysia

Myanmar asks Malaysia to stop food flotilla for Rohingya Muslims

KUALA LUMPUR: Myanmar has confirmed that it had asked Malaysia to stop the latter’s non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from sending an aid flotilla to assist “a specific community” in the Rakhine State.

The “specific community” in question is undestood to be in reference to the Muslim Rohingya, the Bangkok Post reported, quoting a report from Japanese website Kyodo News.

The Myanmar Foreign Ministry reportedly said it had told the Malaysian Embassy that 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”.

The report said that while Myanmar welcomed humanitarian assistance from fellow Asean member states, the aid should be for “both communities in Rakhine State without any discrimination.” It added that the proposal should be made through the proper diplomatic channel.

By “both communities”, Myanmar is understood to be referring also to the Rakhine Buddhist community.

At press time, efforts are underway to obtain comments from Wisma Putra.

In December, it was announced that Malaysia would be sending a flotilla – bearing necessities such as 1,000 tonnes of rice, medical aid and other items – to the Rohingya community in the Rakhine State.

Organised by the Malaysian Consultative Council of Islam Organisations (Mapim), Kelab Putra 1Malaysia and a coalition of NGOs from the region, the flotilla is expected to depart Port Klang on Jan 10 and return 14 days later.

Mapim had stressed that the mission was a humanitarian one, geared towards supporting Rohingya communities in the towns of Maungdaw and Buthidaung.

Mapim also acknowledged that the flotilla could face several possibilities, including being forced to surrender the aid, being told to turn back, or even be attacked.

Violence against the Muslim Rohingya community in Rakhine began on Oct 9, when the Myanmar military initiated “clearance operations” in response to deadly attacks on police stations and outposts in the state.

Numerous allegations of rape and other abuses by the military against the Rohingya have since surfaced, but have so far been difficult to verify because access to the area is tightly controlled.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has criticised the violence against the Muslim Rohingya minority.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees stated that as of October last year, 150,669 refugees and asylum-seekers were registered with its office in Malaysia. Of this, almost 90 per cent were from Myanmar, and from that, 40 per cent, or 54,856, were ethnic Rohingya.

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