Tuesday, August 18, 2015

MYANMAR Diary part III

Upon my return from the UK, I had planned to visit Myanmar before Ramadhan. I knew I would still suffer from jetlag but due to the shortage of time I had to make the trip anyhow. My dear wife had to do the packing again as she has been doing for the past forty over years. This time it was worst for her as she was still trying to recover from the jetlag and was suffering from a bad case of flu and allergies, due to the high pollen count in UK with the blooming of the flowers. On top of that had a lingering cough. However she dutifully and faithfully did my packing to make sure everything I needed was included. My visit to Myanmar was made possible with the assistance and cooperation especially by the Ambassador and his staff at the Malaysian Embassy in Yangoon who facilitated all my meetings there. I started my journey at eight in the morning from my house to KL Sentral to catch an ERL train to KLIA. The MAS flight was at 12pm. My programme was supposed to start in Nay Pi Taw, the capital of Myanmar, which is about 450km from Yangoon, which meant I had to change to a domestic flight from there. The programme fixed were very tight, with meeting relevant government Ministers and to finally end in Sittwee in the Rakhine state. 

Everything was well organised with one important caveat, however, that with Myanmar things can change at the last minute. I had a lot of important messages to pass to them on the crisis of the boat people, human trafficking and the status of human trafficking. As I expected, my trip to Rakhine was cancelled at the last minute on the grounds of security and local sensitivity. It seemed a day before that there was demonstration against the government for allowing the boat people to land. I could not accept the logic of it as they had allowed a UN delegation under Nambiar and a Norwegian delegation to visit Sittwee. Anyway, I considered the number of demonstrators small, which could have been easily controlled by the government. I expressed my displeasure at their refusal for me to visit the Rakhine State to the Minister in the President's Office, FM and Deputy Minister of Religious Affairs. But I sent HUMANiTi to visit Sittwee to distribute food to the IDPs. 

Albeit with the setbacks, the visit and the discussions were productive and constructive. I found there had been some change in attitude of the government leaders. They took the trouble to explain the various actions they were taking to improve the situation of the Bengalees or Rohingya, denying the allegations of the international community. They also showed what they have done for the development projects of the Muslim community. The FM together with very senior officials of the Foreign Ministry gave me and my delegation a very detailed briefings on all actions they have taken in an 1 1/2 hour session as well as what's happening on the ground in Rakhine. I explained the OIC also faced pressure from MEMBER STATES to do something. Thus, we have to make our voices louder and clearer. I emphasized that this is no longer an internal issue of Myanmar but of the region and international community. My own conclusion from the visit is ASEAN has to take the lead. For me this is the best opportunity for Malaysia as the Chairman of ASEAN and non permanent member of SC to show her leadership on the persecution and humanitarian issues of the Rohingya boat people. 

The root causes amongst others is the human rights abuses which left no choice but to seek assylum elsewhere. I left Nay Pi Taw with a statement that I will come back to pursue the issues of the Rohingya. I took an Apex flight to Yangoon that took fifty minutes and stayed at the VIP lounge to catch a MAS flight at twelve noon for KL. Myanmar is rich in all kinds of natural resources and it has also good potential human resources. A lot of developments are being undertaken there and foreign investors are all excited on the opportunities to make handsome profits but I hope and pray that they don't forget on what is happening to the Rakhine Rohingya and the Muslims in Myanmar who are being persecuted.

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