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ASEAN to set up aid fund for stranded Rohingya Muslims

KUALA LUMPUR — South-east Asian countries yesterday announced that they would establish a humanitarian fund to help displaced Rohingya Muslims, with Singapore pledging US$200,000 (S$270,000) to the effort.

KUALA LUMPUR — South-east Asian countries yesterday announced that they would establish a humanitarian fund to help displaced Rohingya Muslims, with Singapore pledging US$200,000 (S$270,000) to the effort.

Malaysian Home Affairs Minister Zahid Hamidi announced the initiative in a news conference after chairing the emergency Association of South-east Asian Nations (ASEAN)Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime to discuss the refugee crisis.

According to a statement released by Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs, the Republic committed an initial sum of US$200,000 to render assistance in humanitarian and relief efforts, expressing support for the fund.

Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs, who attended the meeting in Kuala Lumpur, said: “Such a trust fund would demonstrate that ASEAN is responding to the challenges posed by the irregular movement of people in the region in a multifaceted way.”

Since early May, more than 4,600 boat people from Myanmar and Bangladesh have come ashore in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and Thailand, after human smugglers abandoned their boats amid a regional crackdown. Many are Rohingya Muslims fleeing persecution in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, which has denied them basic rights, including citizenship, and confined more than 100,000 in camps.

The meeting in Kuala Lumpur was a follow-up to an emergency conference on the issue in Bangkok in May, which drew 17 regional countries.

In a statement, Malaysia said the trust fund would be administered by the ASEAN Secretariat based in Jakarta. The statement said the fund would be open to voluntary contributions from ASEAN states and members of the international community to “support the humanitarian and relief efforts involved in dealing with challenges” from the refugee crisis.

Mr Zahid said the regional countries alone should not carry the burden of the refugees. He said he had proposed that each South-east Asian nation contribute US$100,000 to the fund, adding that Myanmar, which was represented by Deputy Home Affairs Minister Kyaw Kyaw Tun, had pledged to work with neighbouring countries to bust human trafficking syndicates.

The treatment of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar was not discussed at the meeting. Mr Zahid said: “We shouldn’t be involved in their domestic matters.” AGENCIES

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