Burma, Malaysia agree over aid flotilla

21-Jan-2017 Intellasia | MM Times | 6:00 AM Print This Post

The flotilla spat appears to have come to an agreeable end. Myanmar has allowed a group of Malaysian organisations to send aid earmarked for Rakhine State after an official permission request was forwarded to the president, and a delegation smoothed over the arrangements yesterday with officials in Nay Pyi Taw.

The tiff was resolved through a compromise: Malaysia can send the vessel so long as it docks in Yangon and not in Sittwe as initially planned, according to an official from the foreign affairs ministry.

The deal was worked out yesterday when representatives from Malaysia met with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and officially submitted the request for approval.

The flotilla was supposed to set sail on January 10, but was delayed after Myanmar announced that any country wanting to donate aid to Rakhine must first get approval through diplomatic channels. The aid must also be delivered by the Myanmar government.

The two countries have been engaged in a war of words over the counter-insurgency campaign in northern Rakhine State, as well as the treatment of the Muslim Rohingya minority. Last year, the Malaysian prime minister joined a protest and accused the Myanmar government of perpetrating genocide.

The public announcement of a vessel bearing food and supplies – and the threat that it would be arriving in international waters regardless of Nay Pyi Taw’s reaction – further escalated the tensions at the end of last year.

The argument was defused during a diplomatic tete-a-tete yesterday. U Kyaw Moe Tun, director general of the International Organisation and Economic Department under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told The Myanmar Times that the Malaysian ambassador, along with delegates from the flotilla organising groups, met with ministry officials in order to abide by Myanmar’s instructions that aid proceed via diplomatic channels.

“We agreed in accordance with the policy … and the ship will have to land at the Yangon jetty, and will not be allowed to dock directly in Sittwe,” he said.

He added that the ministry officials informed the delegation that aid to Rakhine must be parcelled out to both Buddhist and Muslim communities, and will be delivered in cooperation with the social welfare ministry.

The Myanmar Times could not reach the President’s Office spokesperson yesterday for comment over the flotilla truce. However, he confirmed the arrangements, including that the vessel will dock in Yangon, in comments to 7 Days.

“It is impossible for them to go to Maungdaw directly,” U Zaw Htay said.

According to the New Straits Times, Malaysia’s deputy prime minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said Malaysia is pleased by the neighbouring country’s decision to green-light the flotilla.

“We welcome it [the decision to allow aid]. Not only do we welcome the commitment by the government of Myanmar, but we would also like to assist them by giving a positive impression to the international community [about] what is happening in Rakhine State,” he said.



Category: Regional

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