Rohingya refugees gather at a market inside a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, March 7, 2019. (Reuters file photo)
A draft of the statement to be issued after the East Asia Summit in Bangkok early next month makes no mention of the exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, according to a copy of the communique seen by Kyodo News on Sunday.
According to diplomatic sources of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Myanmar strongly pressed that the issue not be included in the statement, which was drawn up by Thailand and will be issued after the Nov 4 summit, which includes major Asian nations as well as others such as the United States, Russia, China and Japan.
Myanmar appears to hold in disfavour interference by the United States, which earlier this year imposed sanctions on Myanmar’s military leaders over extrajudicial killings of Rohingya Muslims.
In contrast, according to the draft of the chairman’s statement to be issued after the next weekend’s Asean summit, the leaders reiterate “the need to find a comprehensive and durable solution” to the root causes of the conflict.
Thailand is the current chair of the 10-member Asean, which also includes Myanmar.
At last year’s EAS held in Singapore, the leaders from the 18 countries expressed “concern” about the humanitarian situation and readiness to support the repatriation process. In the previous year’s summit in Manila, they voiced support for humanitarian assistance.
More than 740,000 members of the persecuted ethnic minority group fled from Myanmar’s Rakhine State to neighbouring Bangladesh since August 2017 to escape a military crackdown on insurgents.
Western and Islamic countries have been particularly critical of Myanmar’s leadership over its perceived failure to act decisively over what has been described as a humanitarian crisis.
The East Asia Summit comprises Asean — which groups Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam — plus Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South Korea and the United States.
Meanwhile, summit sources said that the United States is sending David Stilwell, the US assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, to attend the EAS.