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Indonesia urges 'significant steps' on Rohingya issue

SPEAKING UP. Indonesia's Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi speaks at the RSIS Distinguished Public Lecture titled "Indonesia's Foreign Policy under the Jokowi Administration" in Singapore on February 10, 2017. Photo by Roslan Rahman/ AFP

February 11, 2017

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, joins a chorus of concern Friday calling for an end to the crisis

SINGAPORE – Myanmar should take significant steps to achieve peace in Rakhine state, Indonesia's foreign minister said on Friday, February 10, warning that the bloody crackdown on the country's Muslim Rohingya minority could lead to instability across South East Asia.

Hundreds of Rohingya are thought to have been killed during a brutal campaign by Myanmar security forces in Rakhine to find militants accused of carrying out deadly raids on police border posts.

Almost 70,000 have fled to Bangladesh since "clearance operations" began 4 months ago, bringing horrific stories of mass rape, murder, torture and arson.

Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim-majority nation, joined a chorus of concern Friday calling for an end to the crisis.

"I would like to once again reiterate the importance for the government of Myanmar to take significant steps to create an enabling environment for peace and reconciliation to take place," said foreign minister Retno Marsudi on a visit to Singapore.

"Indonesia shares the concern of the international community on the humanitarian and security situation in Rakhine state."

The plight of the Rohingya, a stateless group denied citizenship in Buddhist-majority Myanmar and reviled as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, has become a lightning rod for anger across the Muslim world. 

Myanmar also drew criticism from Malaysia on the issue last month, in a rare spat between Southeast Asian neighbours.

Prime Minister Najib Razak said Myanmar's treatment of the Rohingya was a "stain" on the 10-member Southeast Asian regional bloc ASEAN, and warned that Islamist extremists may exploit the crisis.

Marsudi made clear that Indonesia wanted to provide constructive assistance.

"Our inability to address the situation in Rakhine state will no doubt have (a) negative impact on the region's stability. It is within this context that Indonesia has taken an active role in assisting Myanmar to address the situation."

Last month, a Myanmar delegation was in Indonesia to learn how Jakarta reached a peace deal between warring Muslims and Christians in the eastern province of Maluku, Marsudi added.

One member of that delegation was Ko Ni, a 63-year-old Muslim lawyer who was assassinated outside Yangon's airport on January 29 on his return.

Ko Ni was a prominent Muslim figure who spoke out against the increasingly vocal anti-Islamic sentiments of Buddhist hardliners and criticised the military's lingering grip on power.

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