The Philippines on Monday said that it respects Malaysia’s decision to disassociate itself from Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Cayetano’s issued statement on Sunday about the situation in Rakhine, as the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Chairman.
Cayetano’s counterpart in Malaysia, Foreign Minister Anifah Aman, openly disagreed with the ASEAN Chairman Statement on September 25.
“Malaysia would like to disassociate itself with the Chairman Statement as we are of the view that it is a misrepresentation of the reality of the situation,” he said.
The chairman’s statement condemned the “attacks against Myanmar security forces” and “all acts of violence which resulted in loss of civilian lives, destruction of homes and displacement of large numbers of people.” It stated that the the foreign ministers “acknowledged that the situation in Rakhine State is a complex inter-communal issue with deep historical roots” and urged all parties to ‘”actions that will further worsen the situation on the ground.”
Aman, however, said that Malaysia has voiced its “grave concerns over the atrocities which have unleashed a full-scale humanitarian crisis that the world simply cannot ignore” but these were not reflected, and that the said statement “omitted” the Rohingyas as the most affected community.
“Malaysia strongly urges the government of Myanmar to end the violence, stop the destruction to lives and properties, allow immediate unimpeded access for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Rohingyas and all affected communities, and to resolve the Rohingya refugee problem,” Aman said.
However, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that the chairman statement was issued after extensive consultations with Malaysia and added that other foreign ministers knew the latter’s decision to disassociate itself.
According to the DFA, “The Philippines as chair tolerates the public manifestation of dissenting voices. This demonstrates a new level of maturity on how we implement ASEAN’s consensus principle when confronted with issues affecting national interests.”
In line with this, the DFA said that the ASEAN Chair also has to respect and take into account the sentiments of the other members of the 10-member regional bloc who attended the meetings on the said issue during the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly in New York.
“ASEAN is deeply concerned about the humanitarian situation in the northern Rakhine State and since Malaysia has different views on some issues, out of respect for its position, we decided that instead of a Foreign Ministers Statement, we would issue a Chairman’s Statement that would reflect the general sentiments of other foreign ministers,” the DFA said.
The DFA then emphasized that the crucial act now is for ASEAN to undertake a coordinated effort to assist Myanmar in addressing the needs of the people in the area in terms security, livelihood, well-being, and to provide humanitarian assistance to affected communities.