ASEAN leaders to discuss Rohingya crisis as Myanmar calls for help: Cayetano

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 12 2017 10:38 PM

Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi attends the ASEAN Summit gala dinner in Manila. Jonathan Ernst, Reuters

MANILA - Southeast Asian leaders are set to discuss the violence and abuses against Rohingya minorities in Myanmar after its foreign minister "explicitly" sought the regional bloc's help to solve the Rohingya crisis, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Sunday.

"Myanmar's foreign minister U Kyaw Tin, this morning, very explicitly told us that they are seeking ASEAN's help and that they appreciate ASEAN mechanisms for humanitarian assistance," Cayetano told reporters on the sidelines of the ASEAN meetings here.

"It will be taken up by our leaders, but it is always a good start when the state which is dealing with the internal problem brings it up and opens up the topic with ASEAN member-states because we always balance the relevance of ASEAN in keeping all our people peaceful versus the non-interference principle in domestic affairs," Cayetano said.

The regional bloc has sent humanitarian aid to help about half a million refugees who fled Myanmar when attacks by Rohingya militants on security posts in Rakhine state sparked a ferocious military response.

"We will continue (to send humanitarian missions to Myanmar), and we are still discussing kung paano pa mai-increase 'yun... We prefer to handle it internally, with ASEAN on top of it," Cayetano said.

"We're balancing ASEAN from not interfering in domestic affairs, and on the other hand to keep us relevant and also not to affect the security of other states in ASEAN," he added.

Myanmar State Counselor Aung Saan Suu Kyi attended the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit here, but made no mention of the Rohingya crisis in her keynote speech.

The Nobel laureate had received international criticism, and was stripped of some recognitions for allegedly not doing enough to stop military abuses against thousands of Rohingya Muslims in the Buddhist-dominated country.

Last week, thousands of Rohingyas from Myanmar fled to Bangladesh on Monday in a new surge of refugees driven by fears of starvation and violence the United Nations has denounced as ethnic cleansing.