KUALA LUMPUR: The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has agreed to send a high-level delegation to Rakhine State in Myanmar to meet the Rohingya community and determine what is happening on the ground.
In a statement issued after the extraordinary session of its Council of Foreign Ministers on the Rohingya, the OIC said it would request its secretary-general to coordinate with the Myanmar government on the visit by the OIC Contact Group.
It is understood that the Contact Group will comprise ministers from 12 countries, including Malaysia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Brunei.
The Contact Group made its first visit to Myanmar to check on the situation of the Rohingya in 2013.
Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said the goals of the Contact Group were very simple.
“The United Nations representative and other reliable sources have said that what has happened (allegations of violence) has happened, but at the initial stage, Myanmar has denied this.
“As a close member of Asean and neighbour and affected country, we are saying that in order to ascertain the reality of it, why not you receive an independent team to assess whether what has been said really happened or is merely propaganda or a hoax,” Anifah told a media conference after the meeting ended.
He said it would be good for Myanmar to receive such a delegation although the country had refused to do so in the past.
He said a team led by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan had visited Rakhine, but is only due to issue a report which will be available only to Myanmar next month.
“There’s very little we can learn from the report, so that is why we have proposed for an independent OIC team to visit and ascertain what is happening,” said Anifah.
The OIC said it would also encourage its Independent Permanent Human Rights Commission to continue examining the situation of the Rohingya as a priority issue.
The meeting also agreed to invite OIC member states to continue to share the substantial costs incurred by countries that have provided temporary shelter and protection to Rohingya refugees.
The OIC renewed its call for Myanmar to restore the citizenship of the Rohingya Muslims which was revoked by the Myanmar government in 1982.
It also called on Myanmar to ensure an inclusive and transparent policy towards ethnic and religious communities by including the Rohingya.
In a separate document adopted at the meeting, the foreign ministers urged Myanmar to take effective measures to prevent the worsening of the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine and to immediately allow unimpeded and unconditional access by all parties to deliver aid.
Anifah also said that a food flotilla for the Rohingya organised by Malaysian NGOs had been given permission to enter Myanmar, albeit only as far as Yangon and not Sittwe where most aid groups helping the Rohingya were based.
Anifah said Myanmar would allow only its own authorities to distribute the aid from the flotilla, comprising food, medical supplies and other essentials.
Asked why Myanmar was not invited to attend the meeting, Anifah said Myanmar was neither a member of the OIC or had observer status with the body.
“What is important is that the message has been delivered by the OIC member states, and they cannot ignore the voices of 1.6 billion Muslim people,” he said.