Union Minister for International Cooperation U Kyaw Tin participated in the 27th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting and the ASEAN-European Union Ministerial Meeting which were held via videoconference yesterday starting from 7:30 am from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nay Pyi Taw.
During the 27th ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the Ministers exchanged views on regional and international issues. They also commended the provisional measures undertaken to ensure continuity of cooperation and operations of the ARF amidst the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and adopted “ARF Ha Noi Plan of Action II (2020-2025)”, “ARF Statement on Enhancing Cooperation to Prevent and Respond to Infectious Disease Outbreak”, “ARF Statement on the Treatment of Children Recruited and Associated with Terrorist and Violent Extremist Group” and “ARF Statement on Cooperation in the Field of Security and in the Use of ICTs in the Context of international Security”.
Some Ministers made reference to the complex humanitarian situation in Rakhine stressing the importance of addressing the root causes of the problem and creating conducive environment for the returnees. They encouraged ASEAN to continue its efforts to assist Myanmar in addressing the humanitarian situation in Rakhine. They also encouraged Myanmar and Bangladesh to continue constructive and effective dialogue to facilitate the repatriation process.
In his response to the remarks on the issue of Rakhine State, the Union Minister stressed the need to look at the issue from the broader view and to understand the challenges and complexities surrounding the issue. He added that the issue of Rakhine is a complicated one with long historical roots involving cross-border migrations and separatist movement that started even before regaining of Myanmar’s independence. He underscored that building trust and harmony among these communities is one of the issues that Myanmar has been taking seriously as there have been deep-rooted mutual mistrust and fear between different communities. He stated that the present Government has attached a high priority to finding sustainable solution for all the communities. He highlighted that many people overlook the fact that the mass displacement was triggered by the violent coordinated attacks committed by the ARSA terrorist group in 2016 and 2017. He pointed out that Myanmar stated time and again her commitment to taking back those who have been verified as former residents of Rakhine State as agreed in the three bilateral arrangements between Myanmar and Bangladesh. He refuted that the number of the displaced persons mentioned by Bangladeshi Foreign Minister is too much exaggerated and inflated. He highlighted that despite Myanmar’s readiness to start repartition, the process have been delayed due to intimidation by the terror group in the camps aimed at preventing repatriation and exploiting the plight of displaced persons for their own political agenda. He asserted that Myanmar will not subscribe to other intrusive initiatives that are not included in the bilateral agreement. He added that the escalation of dual conflicts with AA and ARSA coupled with the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic made the situation more difficult and complicated.
The Union Minister added that although the repatriation process stands still at this moment, Myanmar continued to engage with Bangladesh through diplomatic channels to implement the bilateral agreements for repatriation and was also discussing to start the pilot projects in two villages in Rakhine. He updated that as of July 2020, a list of over 25,000 verified displaced persons have been sent to the Bangladesh side. He emphasized that in the meantime, Myanmar was trying to create conducive environment in Rakhine in cooperation with the UN agencies, ASEAN friends, and its development partners. He also informed that recently, ASEAN and Myanmar have approved four “ASEAN Projects” to implement the recommendations of the ASEAN’s Preliminary Needs Assessment. He also apprised of the Forum that following seven rounds of field assessments covering 120 villages, the UNDP and UNHCR have also undertaken 75 Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) to improve community infrastructure and to assess the needs of the people. He concluded by expressing appreciation to the ASEAN Member States and other development partners who have sincerely been extending their support to Myanmar in creating better condition in Rakhine State.
The Joint Communique of the 53rd ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting was issued in which the ASEAN Foreign Ministers, among others, reaffirmed their support in providing humanitarian assistance, facilitating the repatriation process, and promoting sustainable development in Rakhine State. They welcomed the endorsement of the finalized projects at the 3rd High-Level Coordination Meeting, held on 27 July 2020. They also welcomed the of Myanmar Government’s efforts in the implementation of the “National Strategy on Resettlement of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and Closure of IDP Camps”. They also expressed their continued support for Myanmar’s efforts to bring peace, stability, the rule of law, to promote harmony and reconciliation among the various communities, as well as to ensure sustainable and equitable development in Rakhine State.
During the 53rd ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting and Related Meetings which were held from 9 to 12 September 2020 via videoconference, the Ministers issued (41) documents which include, among others, Joint Communique of the 53rd ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting. —MNA