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The Philippines says it respects Malaysia's decision to dissociate itself from a statement on Myanmar's Rakhine state issued by Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano as chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Anifah let it be known that the Malaysian government was angry because the ASEAN statement made no mention of the word "Rohingya", members of a stateless Muslim minority group who allegedly have been targeted in atrocities in Myanmar's Rakhine state.

"When they do not admit the violence or the atrocities committed against the Rohingya, it is very hard (to take action)".

It said Malaysia had relayed its concerns over the issue but it was not reflected in the Chairman statement, adding that the statement had omitted the Rohingyas as one of the affected communities.

"Hence, the chairman's statement was not based on consensus", he said.

Myanmar's military and local Buddhist militia in Rakhine have been blamed for targeting Rohingya civilians in atrocities such as killings and the burnings of hundreds of homes and villages belonging to the minority.

Charles Santiago says Asean can not continue "pussyfooting" about the targeted violence against the Rohingya community.

The cycle of violence began on August 25, when ARSA insurgents launched deadly attacks on Myanmar police outposts in Rakhine.

Myanmar's government has rejected any use of the term "Rohingya". The Buddhist majority refers to Rohingya pejoratively as "Bengalis", due to their physical similarities with people from neighboring Bangladesh and to imply they are undocumented immigrants.

The DFA secretary's statement issued on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in NY on Sunday, condemned the attacks against Myanmar security forces and acts of violence "which resulted in loss of civilian lives, destruction of homes and displacement of thousands".

He also called on Myanmar to end the violence in Rakhine and "stop destruction to lives and properties".

Manila said it has "deep respect" for Malaysia's stand on the issue in the northern Rakhine State, whichwas clearly articulated in several ASEAN meetings in NY.

In line with this, the DFA said that the ASEAN Chair also has to respect and take into account the sentiments of the other members of the 10-member regional bloc who attended the meetings on the said issue during the 72 Session of the UN General Assembly in NY.

DFA explained that a chairman's statement was issued precisely because Malaysia had a different view; and, being ASEAN chairman for 2017, the Philippines had a "certain level of flexibility" to formulate a chairman's statement on various key issues.

"The Philippines as chair tolerates the public manifestation of dissenting voices".

Malaysia's opposition came as a surprise as the ASEAN has relied greatly on the principle of consensus. "An emergency meeting of Asean leaders must be convened, whereby stronger diplomatic measures must be taken against this errant member state", she added. If the fight in Rakhine is joined by global extremists, they would have opened up a battlefield in a second Asean nation, raising the risk of radicalising more Muslims in the region.


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