'No quick fixes' for situation in Myanmar's Rakhine state: Vivian Balakrishnan
Food, shelter and healthcare remain pressing needs for the Rohingya, who fled a Myanmar army crackdown in Rakhine state en masse over the past six months AFP/FRED DUFOUR
SINGAPORE: The situation in Myanmar's conflict-torn Rakhine State is "a complex inter-communal issue with deep historical roots", and there are "no quick fixes", said Singapore's Minister for Foreign Affairs Vivian Balakrishnan on Tuesday (Apr 3). He made the comments during a meeting with Thailand's former deputy prime minister and foreign minister Surakiart Sathirathai who is in Singapore. Dr Surakiart is also chairman of an advisory board tasked by the Myanmar government to look into the crisis in Rakhine. "All parties involved must avoid actions that could worsen the situation on the ground. The immediate priority is to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches all in need," said Dr Balakrishnan, according to a press statement issued by Singapore's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)."Ultimately, the responsibility to resolve the issue rests with the stakeholders in Myanmar. All sides must work together to foster comprehensive and durable solutions to address underlying challenges. There are no quick fixes."
During the meeting, Dr Balakrishnan also welcomed the setting up of the advisory board headed by Dr Surakiart. The panel will advise on how to act on recommendations of an earlier commission headed by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Dr Balakrishnan encouraged the advisory board and implementation committee to work closely with the Myanmar government to put into effect the recommendations.
MFA said Dr Balakrishnan also noted the need for Myanmar to intensify bilateral dialogue with Bangladesh on the repatriation of refugees, and hoped for the "expeditious commencement of their voluntary, safe, secure and dignified return without undue delay"."As a friend and fellow ASEAN neighbour, Singapore continues to be supportive of the efforts by the Myanmar government to bring peace, stability and the rule of law, to promote harmony and reconciliation among the various communities, and to ensure sustainable and equitable development in Rakhine State," MFA said.ADVISORY BOARD URGES ASEAN TO TAKE MORE ACTIVE ROLE
On Tuesday, Dr Surakiart also said at a press conference that the advisory board urged ASEAN to take a more active role in helping Myanmar handle the Rohingya crisis.
The regional grouping can help develop the public healthcare sector in Rakhine State, such as by improving medical services there, Dr Surakiart said. Myanmar has shut down temporary holding camps in Rakhine, the board said, adding that it hopes that by doing so the Rohingyas will return to Myanmar, knowing that they will head straight for home instead of a camp. Other recommendations included rolling out a pilot project for a model township in Rakhine State to address the problems faced by the communities there. Myanmar has accepted the recommendations in principle, Dr Surakiart added.
Additional reporting by Leong Wai Kit