By Roy Mabasa
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Sunday said Myanmar has sought the help of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) regarding the plight of refugees in Rakhine State.
“Myanmar said it very explicitly, we need ASEAN’s help,” Cayetano told reporters at the sidelines of an ASEAN-related security meeting in a five-star hotel in Pasay City.
Cayetano said he met with his counterparts in the region, hoping it could set the tone for the discussion on the Rakhine issue in the next few days.
He pointed out that their approach was not to judge, but to offer help, and see how to make the whole region “a region of peace and stability and a region where human rights is respected.”
“We never tried to simplify a very complicated issue and complicated problem that’s going on in Myanmar,” he said.
On the part of the Philippines, the DFA chief said President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has also expressed willingness to provide medical supplies and doctors to the affected Rakhine State in Myanmar.
“He is willing to put something together,” Cayetano said.
Last September 25, Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim nation, distanced itself from a statement issued by Cayetano as chairman of the ASEAN, regarding the Rohingya issue, calling it a “misrepresentation of the reality of the situation.”
Malaysia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Anifah Aman said Cayetano’s statement “was not based on consensus.”
“The statement (of Cayetano) also omits the Rohingyas as one of the affected communities,” Aman said in a statement issued on the same day.
Cayetano issued a statement on behalf of the foreign ministers of ASEAN expressing concern over recent developments in the Northern Rakhine State of Myanmar, condemning the attacks against Myanmar security forces last August 25 and “all acts of violence which resulted in loss of civilian lives, destruction of homes and displacement of large numbers of people.”
Myanmar is a member of the ASEAN.
The statement also urged all parties to avoid worsening the situation on the ground and called for a “viable and long-term solutions to the root causes of the conflict.”