I am pleased to officially inform the general public that the Government of Myanmar, at the behest of its State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, has agreed to convene an ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Retreat in Yangon, Myanmar.


The Retreat session, to be held on 19 December 2016, will provide the ASEAN Foreign Ministers the opportunity to exchange views and deliberate on finding a just, expeditious and durable solution to the problem affecting the areas in the Northern Rakhine State. During the Retreat, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has promised to brief the ASEAN Foreign Ministers on the recent developments of the situation there.


This is what the Government of Malaysia has pushed for in recent weeks – an acknowledgement of the problem and the meeting of minds for its resolution. Even though this is only the first step in resolving the problem, it is nevertheless a positive step in the right direction.


On 27 November 2016, I had proposed for an ASEAN Foreign Ministers meeting be convened urgently to discuss the situation in the Northern Rakhine State. The worrying condition and the dire humanitarian situation on the ground, coupled with the wider implication of this crisis to neighbouring ASEAN countries, made it imperative for the matter to be discussed within ASEAN. Myanmar initially rejected Malaysia’s appeal, but constant pressure from both the international community as well as Malaysia has led us to this point and to the Retreat to be held.


This 19 December meeting will give me the opportunity to unequivocally state Malaysia’s strong position on this issue. I fully expect to be able to seize this opening to highlight the fact that Malaysia has consistently condemned the escalation of violence in the Northern Rakhine State since the outbreak on 9 October 2016. The loss of innocent lives and the displacement of people is unacceptable, and Malaysia will further call on all parties involved to refrain from taking any actions that would aggravate the situation further.


As a founding member of ASEAN, Malaysia is fully cognisant of the principles upon which ASEAN was built, in particular, the non-interference principle that binds us in ASEAN. However, we also believe that the ASEAN Member States are bound by international principles on the promotion and protection of human rights, which are also enshrined in the ASEAN Charter and the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.


The spirit of ASEAN Community, set to advance ASEAN’s goal of lasting peace, security and stability, sustained economic growth and shared prosperity and social progress, should guide us in this instance. Malaysia stands ready to assist Myanmar in finding a just, expeditious and durable solution to the protracted issue in the Rakhine State.



17 DECEMBER 2016

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