Zakir Hussain – Straits Times
Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa said his country is looking to help build shelters, schools and community centers and improve economic opportunities in Myanmar’s Rakhine state as it recovers from scars of ethnic conflict.
“It is very important for us to offer a sense of hope to people, so that there are opportunities for employment and further reconciliation,” he told reporters on Wednesday, giving an assessment of his two-day visit there this week.
“We have ahead of us not only the business of reconstructing physical infrastructure, but also rebuilding trust and security between the two sides.”
His visit came months after reports of violence between Arakan Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims emerged.
The conflict continues to see an influx of boat people from the area to neighboring countries. Indonesia has, in recent years, also sought to play a role as Southeast Asia’s biggest nation to help resolve regional conflict.
On Monday and Tuesday, Marty visited six refugee camps in the townships of Kyauktaw, Pauktaw and Maungdaw by helicopter, and on the outskirts of Sittwe by road, accompanied by Myanmar’s Border Affairs Minister Thein Htay. They also talked with refugees from both sides of the divide.
“Feelings of distrust run high between the two communities, and there are urgent economic needs,” Marty said.
He also discussed the issue of citizenship with Lieutenant-General Thein Htay. Many of the 800,000 or so Rohingyas are stateless.
Indonesian journalists accompanying him on the visit reported Lt. Gen. Thein Htay as saying that the issue of citizenship will take time, and has to involve the 60 million people of Myanmar.
Marty felt Myanmar wanted to address these tensions: “The fact that we were invited shows a willingness to be involved and to learn from other countries’ experience.
“We don’t see this being prolonged,” he added. “People in affected states are showing a willingness to recover quickly.”
Reprinted courtesy of The Straits Times