Sunday, 1 October 2017

Rohingya crisis splits Asean on religious lines

Malaysia's open criticism of Myanmar's treatment of its Rohingya Muslim minority speaks to the potential for wider regional communal conflict


Clear divisions are emerging among members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) over Myanmar’s military operations in Rakhine state, a diplomatic divide that threatens to split the regional grouping on religious lines.

Myanmar’s military-led “clearance operations” have led to civilian causalities, allegations of grotesque rights abuses and the displacement of over 500,000 ethnic Rohingya who have sought refuge in neighboring Bangladesh.

Malaysia took the rare step last week of disassociating itself from a joint statement issued by the Philippines, the grouping’s current chairman, because from Kuala Lumpur’s perspective it misrepresented the situation. Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, in an unusually sharp rebuke, maintained that the chairman’s remarks failed to reflect Asean’s founding principle of consensus.

The Asean statement expressed support for Myanmar in efforts “to bring peace, stability, rule of law and to promote harmony and reconciliation between various communities,” and omitted the term “Rohingya” in referring to the persecuted Muslim minority group – in accordance with Naypyidaw’s opposition to its use as an official ethnic group classification.

Read the full story at the Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times specialising on current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at nilebowie@gmail.com.