Khabar Southeast Asia

  • English
  • Bahasa

Burma welcomes Indonesia's engagement: Natalegawa

By Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata for Khabar Southeast Asia in Jakarta

January 16, 2013

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, centre, and Burmese Border Affairs Minister Lt. General Thein Htay, right, walk with local residents during a visit to Burma's Rakhine state. [AFP/Indonesian Embassy handout]

Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, centre, and Burmese Border Affairs Minister Lt. General Thein Htay, right, walk with local residents during a visit to Burma's Rakhine state. [AFP/Indonesian Embassy handout]

Burma has welcomed Indonesia's interest in Rakhine state and can benefit from its experience in addressing communal violence, Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said after visiting the fellow ASEAN member state.

"The fact that the Myanmar authorities invited us to see for ourselves, to me shows the willingness to be informed and to benefit from other countries' 'lessons learned'," Marty told reporters in Jakarta on January 9th. "The people in the affected areas have been very welcoming of Indonesia's engagement."

His January 7th-8th trip included visits to camps for internally displaced people in the Rakhine townships of Kyauktaw, Maungdaw, Pauktaw and Sittwe.

"We are seeing patently obvious humanitarian needs in terms of emergency requirements, but at the same time, there is a greater challenge on how to promote reconciliation and trust between the affected communities," Marty said.

Indonesia has pledged $1 million in financial assistance to help build shelters, schools, and other public facilities in Rakhine state and to revitalise economic opportunity as the area recovers from violence between Muslim Rohingyas and Buddhist residents.

The Indonesian minister spoke after witnessing the transfer of the office of ASEAN secretary general from Surin Pitsuwan of Thailand to Le Luong Minh of Vietnam at the ASEAN secretariat in Jakarta.

"Based on what we have seen, Indonesia is willing to contribute as much as possible to ASEAN and Myanmar in addressing the situation in Rakhine," he said.

Indonesian concern and commitment

The bloody conflict that broke out in June 2012 between the two religious communities left at least 80 dead and more than 60,000 displaced, mostly Rohingya Muslims. The plight of the Rohingya sparked strong concern among Muslims in Indonesia.

A number of official and unofficial Indonesian delegations have visited Burma to offer help in addressing the conflict and assisting the displaced communities.

Jusuf Kalla, former Indonesian vice president and chairman of the Indonesian Red Cross (PMI), went in August with representatives from the Organization of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) to assess the situation, and PMI has been providing humanitarian assistance in the affected areas since then.

Also in August, a senior politician and lawmaker from the Islamic Prosperous Justice Party (PKS), Hidayat Nur Wahid, led four lawmakers from the PKS faction and two officials from the Social Welfare Ministry to visit Burma to offer their assistance.

Marty said Indonesia has to deliver quickly on its pledged aid for the Rakhine communities so that delays do not prevent relief efforts from moving into the reconstruction phase.

He also said that resolving the issue of Rohingyas' citizenship would be an important component of the reconciliation process. Burma's government does not acknowledge the Rohingya as lawful citizens, making it difficult for them to access education, health and employment opportunities.

A mediator of conflicts

Ratna Shofi Inayati, an ASEAN studies expert from the Indonesian Institutes of Sciences (LIPI), said that Marty's visit at the invitation of the Burma's government is a "positive step "that shows ASEAN's acknowledgment of Indonesia's role as mediator in regional conflicts.

She added that Indonesia can also offer the lessons it learned in resolving the conflict in Aceh. In 2005, Indonesian authorities reached a peace accord with the separatist movement there, settling a dispute that plunged the westernmost province into violence for three decades.

"Indonesia is considered reputable for mediating conflict. At least we can help to reduce the tension and prevent the conflict from escalating," Ratna told Khabar.

Home About Us Contact Us Disclaimer +Fullsite