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    Jakarta Pressing Burma on Rohingya Legal Rights

    Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa
    attends the opening session of the 46th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in
    Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, June 30, 2013. (File)

    Ron Corben
    July 10, 2013

    BANGKOK — Indonesia is pressing Burma’s
    government to grant legal status to the country’s Muslim Rohingya. As more
    Rohingya seek asylum in Indonesia and elsewhere abroad, Ron Corben reports from
    Bangkok that Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa says Burma needs to
    take action to end inter-communal violence.

    Indonesia’s Foreign Minister, Marty Natalegawa,
    says Burma has to press on with democratic reforms and recognize the legal
    rights of hundreds of thousands of stateless Muslim Rohingya.

    Burma – also known as Myanmar – has been wracked by
    sectarian bloodshed over the past year that has led to more than 200 deaths and
    displaced tens of thousands. Fighting began in communities with large numbers
    of ethnic Rohingya, who are denied citizenship in Burma.

    Natalegawa, speaking to reporters in Bangkok
    Wednesday, says Indonesia is “encouraging” Burma to grant legal recognition to
    the Rohingya as an initial step to ease tensions.

    “There is the issue of the status issue, which on
    the one hand is political as well as legal, which we are now encouraging the
    government of Myanmar to address in a fundamental way so that the Rohingya can
    obtain the kind of status and legal rights similar and akin to the rest of
    their countrymen,” said Natalegawa.

    Burmese authorities have long excluded Rohingya
    from the ethnic groups recognized as Burmese citizens, claiming that they have
    always been illegal immigrants from neighboring Bangladesh.

    Natalegawa says there is a “huge sense of distrust”
    that now lies between the Buddhist majority and Muslim minority in Burma as a
    result of the sectarian bloodshed. He said Indonesia had to work through
    similar bouts of violence since the late 1990s as it moved towards
    democratization. He says Indonesia is ready to share its experience with
    Burmese authorities in rebuilding the communities.

    “So we know there is an issue to be addressed but I
    believe that this is part and parcel of Myanmar’s democratization
    efforts,” he said. “It cannot be treated in isolation so we must
    impress upon the Myanmar government as we have been, that to be able to
    transform democratically there must be at the same time, not sequentially, at
    the same time they must also address the issue of communal tensions and
    horizontal conflicts.”

    Thousands of Rohingya have fled by boat on perilous
    journeys, with an unknown number perishing at sea, as they seek asylum abroad.

    Indonesia is planning to convene a major regional
    conference this year to combat people smugglers and reduce the flows of boat
    people coming into the region.