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Indonesia offers help in Myanmar ethnic rift

Publication Date : 24-04-2013


Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who is in Myanmar for a two-day state visit, has pledged to help it deal with communal tensions.

He warned that if tensions between Rohingya Muslims and Arakan Buddhists were left to fester, they could have a negative impact on Myanmar as well as Muslim-majority Indonesia.

Dr Yudhoyono said: "I will promote, encourage that Myanmar will address it wisely, appropriately, prevent tension and violence. We in Indonesia are ready to support them to reach those goals."

He added: "If it is not addressed in the best way possible, its impact is not good for Myanmar and even for Indonesians, who are majority Muslims."

The Indonesian leader was speaking at a forum in Singapore ahead of his arrival in Naypyidaw. He was on a two-day visit to Singapore.

Buddhist-Muslim unrest in the western Myanmar state of Rakhine has left at least 180 people dead and more than 110,000 displaced since June last year.

Rohingya now form the third largest population of asylum-seekers in Indonesia, after Afghans and Iranians.

Indonesia has pledged US$1 million in humanitarian aid to Myanmar as it seeks to play a role in resolving regional conflicts as South-east Asia's biggest nation.

Dr Yudhoyono said he had built relations with Myanmar's leaders when the country faced embargoes by other governments "to encourage them to continue their process of democratisation".

Yesterday, he joined a host of world leaders who have visited Myanmar since its military junta stepped down and the country underwent democratic reforms.

He said he would offer his support for "the process of democratisation, of nation building, rule of law, human rights promotion".

Noting Myanmar's challenge in changing from authoritarian rule to democracy, he recalled a similar situation in Indonesia in the 1990s: "The military must leave politics... relinquish it to the civil power, leave it to democracy."

Dr Yudhoyono met his Myanmar counterpart, Thein Sein, while in Naypyidaw and an Indonesian official has been quoted as saying a memorandum of understanding on rice trade was among the agreements expected to be signed.

Dr Yudhoyono yesterday also touched on his country's domestic issues in the 50-minute Thomson Reuters Newsmaker forum.

He acknowledged that fuel subsidies were a drag on the economy and said he hoped to take steps to reduce them next month.

While he expressed frustration at not being able to eradicate corruption quickly enough, he was optimistic it would be done eventually.

He said: "I have a belief, maybe if it took Hong Kong 13 years, maybe in Indonesia it will take 20 to 25 years, maybe it will be cleaner, our country will be freed from corruption, and corruption will not be a rule but an exception."


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