THE foreign ministers of Singapore and Thailand are expected to head to Burma (Myanmar) soon to expedite the safe repatriation of the over 700,000 minority Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.
The move comes as Burma faces international pressure on alleged atrocities committed against the stateless Muslim minorities during an anti-insurgency campaign last year, with its Asean neighbours calling for full accountability of the commanders who led the violent crackdown.
Malaysia’s Minister Saifuddin Abdullah said the Asean-approved mission to Burma would likely set the tone for the Asean leaders’ meeting in mid-November, according to Kyodo News.
At the meeting in November, Asean leaders are expected to put the Rohingya crisis at the top of the agenda, Saifuddin said.
Saifuddin said the Asean countries hoped the efforts would help the return of the Rohingya community to the western Burmese state by early next year.
“We are hopeful that (at) the beginning of next year, when the rainy season ends, the process can start,” Saifuddin was quoted as saying.
Since its formation in 1967, the Asean grouping, also known as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, has applied the principle of non-intervention on domestic affairs among its 10-member countries.
However, ministers from countries like Malaysia have insisted that the Rohingya issue had caused the arrival of Rohingya refugees to its shores.
In Malaysia, the UN High Commissioner for refugees recorded 75,000 Rohingya refugees in the country. Thousands more remain unaccounted for as they were not registered.
Singapore and Thailand will head the repatriation bid due to their status as Asean chair – Singapore at present and Thailand will assume the role in January.