TEHRAN, Sep. 07 (Press Shia Agency) – Speaking to Press Shia Agency about Indonesia’s measures to help resolve the humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, Ambassador Ocatvino Alimudin believes Myanmar government would go on to consider some practical measures to resolve the issue and its stance is gearing toward the international community’s wishes.
The grievous situation of 1.1 million Rohingya Muslims in the wake of a new wave of violence that broke out on 25 August after decades of ethnic tensions in the Rakhine state of Myanmar has managed to make headlines all across the globe. The world’s most persecuted people, Rohingya Muslims have been subjected to mass killings, systematic discrimination, and rigid restrictions, with their rights to citizenship, freedom of movement, access to medical aid, education and other basic services all denied.
According to reports, at least 400 people were killed during the outbreak of violence two weeks ago. UN says during this time, 146,000 people have fled to Bangladesh due to widespread persecution by Myanmar security forces, and has estimated that the number of refugees would double.
Meanwhile, Indonesia as a predominantly Muslim country has been quite vocal in its support toward the Rohingya crisis, with thousands of Indonesian Muslims staging pro-Rohingya demonstrations in Central Jakarta. The Indonesian government has also made contact with Myanmar national Leader Aung San Suu Kyi on the situation and has taken a number of measures to help resolve the humanitarian crisis in the Rakhine state.
For this reason, the English Desk of Mehr News Agency reached out to Indonesian Ambassador to Tehran Ocatvino Alimudin in order to shed more light on Indonesia’s stance over Rohingya crisis and the country’s plans for settling the situation.
The following is the full text of the interview conducted at Indonesian Embassy in Tehran on Wednesday, September 6:
Indonesian President Joko Widodo has recently said that he would take some concrete actions to help resolve the humanitarian crisis of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. What are those practical measures that President Widodo was talking about?
President of the Republic of Indonesia Joko Widodo has mentioned that we need not only statements and condemnation, but clear actions toward the Rohingya crisis. During the visit of Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi to Myanmar on Monday [4 October], there were talks with Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi on implementation of some very concrete measures in terms of building a hospital there. We have completed phase I of the construction of the Indonesian Hospital in Rakhine state which occupies approximately 8000 square meters of land with a building area of more than 1000 square meters. Now we are in phase II of the construction which includes construction of doctors’ and nurses’ rooms and will be completed by October. The good thing about the Indonesian Hospital is that it will accommodate all local people of the Rakhine state, not only the Muslims. This is a good initiative, a good starting point, where both Rakhine and Muslim people work together on a joint project to construct the hospital. This is not a project for only one ethnic group, but a project for all.
Apart from the hospital, we are also ready to send humanitarian aid in the form of containers for medical supplies and foodstuff to Myanmar once we get access to delivering the humanitarian assistance there. We have also sent humanitarian aid to Bangladesh and some food supplies to the local community there, which is hosting tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees. Foreign Minister Marsudi has also held talks with officials of Bangladesh after visiting Myanmar about the situation of Rohingya Muslims.
What has been the reaction of the Burmese government to Indonesia’s stance toward the mass killings of Rohingya Muslims and about the measures Indonesia is going take to assist with the grievous situation?
I think I should stress that Indonesia’s stance on this issue has been very clear. During a meeting of Foreign Minister Marsudi with state counselor Suu Kyi in Myanmar’s capital on Monday, Ms. Marsudi submitted a proposal to Myanmar to help resolve the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State. These four elements include 1) restoring peace and security as a means to stabilize the region; 2) maximum restraint and non-violence in order to stop any coercive measures and atrocities there; 3) protection to all persons in the Rakhine State, regardless of race and religion; and 4) immediate access to humanitarian aids.
The proposal also includes another element which is more technical, and that is the implementation of the Final Report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State, which we call the Kofi Annan report since the commission is chaired by him. Under the Final Report, we can think of practical measures, technical issues, about citizenships, free movement, and so on.
I believe that the government of Myanmar will receive these positions, and its reaction will be in line with our proposals. I think after Aung San Su Kyi’s conversation with Turkish President in which she voiced support for the rights of Rohingya Muslims, she would go on to consider some practical measures that would be acceptable to all of us. I think Myanmar’s stance is gearing toward the international community’s wishes. So once Myanmar gives access to humanitarian aid, countries like Indonesia and Iran can round up cooperation not only between governments, but also between governments and civil societies in order to deliver the donations to the right parties in Myanmar. I think people will soon get a clear view on what is going on and what is best for them, and the government of Myanmar will work together with the international community and we can see the progress after this.
On Monday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif held a telephone conversation with his Indonesian counterpart on the situation of Rohingya Muslims while Ms. Marsudi was in Myanmar to assess the situation. What are the areas in which Iran and Indonesia in particular could cooperate together in order to help resolve the Rohingya crisis?
I should note that Iran and Indonesia are very close. We are always exchanging views by phone conversations which are facilitated by our embassies. Since the Monday talks were held with Foreign Minister Marsudi in Myanmar, that conversation was also connected to Indonesian Embassy in Myanmar. I heard that the two sides discussed the situation of Muslims in the Rakhine state, and I am sure Mr. Zarif has also conferred on the issue with the Iranian government as well as a number of other governments. As for us, we are fully ready to have more discussion on the issue, and sit together with the ASEAN member states to discuss humanitarian aid and what kind of assistance they can give and how they are going to do that. First and foremost, we need to bring together the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross), the IOM (International Organization for Migration), as well as the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), so those related parties will be involved in the issue.
As for bilateral cooperation between Iran and Indonesia, we are quite open to any suggestion. It will depend on what the Islamic Republic of Iran has and what we have to help with the crisis. But when we talk about the needs of Burmese people in Rakhine state now, we are thinking about capacity building, education, economy empowerment, and other such subjects which we are open to discuss with any country that wants to help.
Myanmar has been laying landmines near its border with Bangladesh in a move that is believed to prevent return of Rohingya Muslims fleeing the brutal violence. Wouldn’t this move be considered in violation of the international law?
Whenever we talk about territorial integrity, or peace and security, or how we enforce our laws on our borders, each country is entitled to its own rights. The most important thing is that countries need to discuss with their neighbors the kind of measure they are going to take in regards to the borders, such with the building of walls. In this regard, part of the Final Report of the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State includes some measures about the movement of Rohingya Muslims while crossing borders. I cannot say whether Myanmar’s move is against international law or not, but what the international law says in the UN Charter or the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969) is that every state has to secure its borders and make their borderlines clear and visible. It falls into border cooperation between neighbor states to agree on what measures they want to take in regard to border security. In terms of the view of the international community, we give preference to what the neighboring countries have agreed with each other. They have the final say to decide whether the measure would be acceptable or not.
But landmines are quite different from building walls which is more or less agreed by all to ensure border security. Landmines can actually endanger lives. Would the international community be okay with that?
First, we have to clarify who represents the international community. Right now we are talking about the Advisory Commission on Rakhine state which is appointed by the government of Myanmar, and then the chairman, Kufi Annan, is also an acceptable figure by the international community. I think this year we need to focus on the implementation of the Final Report before going further to other measures. I think the best course of action for us at the moment is to make documentations, since the most important thing is how to register the Myanmarian migrants who are in Bangladesh and are in need of support. The government of Myanmar also needs cooperation from Bangladesh on this matter.
Are you optimistic about the future of Rohingya Muslims and the outcome of Indonesia and other countries’ measures toward their situation?
This is still an ongoing process, but considering the fact that governments of Indonesia and Myanmar are on good terms, the prospect of cooperation looks positive. I think the next step is to bring this issue to bigger forums, such as ASEAN or the United Nations, which would hopefully make a clear way toward progress and we would see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Interview by: Marjohn Sheikhi, Payman Yazdani