Meeting on the situation in Rakhine State

  • Speech, check against delivery

It is worth noting with a heavy heart that I join this meeting today for it was not so long ago that we were collectively lauding Myanmar as an emerging democratic state.

Australia is deeply concerned by the violence in Rakhine State and the resulting humanitarian crises in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

Australia condemns the attacks on government forces by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army – violence is not the solution to Rakhine State's complex issues.

We cannot condone attacks by government forces. Violence is never a solution.

We recognise that Myanmar has security challenges to address, but that does not legitimise the use of excessive force by government forces or other actors. We do not have confirmation of reports coming out of Myanmar, but the indications that civilians have been targeted and villages burnt down are deeply disturbing.

Clearly something is gravely wrong in Rakhine State – the fact that over 400,000 people have sought sanctuary in Bangladesh is evidence enough of that.

The Government of Myanmar has a responsibility to protect all citizens in its territory, and where human rights violations have taken place, those responsible must be held to account.

We call for an end to the security operations in Rakhine State. Further violence and instability could fuel radicalisation in the region and create a rallying point for international jihadists.

Regional groups and other friends have a special role to play in addressing the immediate crises and assisting Myanmar with the underlying drivers of instability. In particular, I want to commend the proactive efforts of my friend and colleague, Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi.

Australia is committed to working with regional partners and the international community to immediately address the humanitarian crises in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

We are also committed to supporting Myanmar's efforts to find long-term solutions to the situation in Rakhine State.

We welcome the Government of Myanmar's commitment to provide humanitarian assistance to all communities in need through the Red Cross movement. It is vital that Myanmar allows unfettered access for other humanitarian agencies as soon as possible, to help to meet the scale of need.

Australia recognises the heavy burden being placed on Bangladesh by the instability in Rakhine State.

In recent days we offered $5 million for humanitarian support, and today I confirm we are providing up to $15 million in additional humanitarian assistance to Bangladesh and Myanmar to help address the humanitarian needs of those affected by the crisis.

This brings Australia's assistance for Rohingya and affected communities in Myanmar and Bangladesh to over $65 million since 2012.

Australia welcomes the Myanmar Government's commitment to implement the recommendations contained in the final report of the Kofi Annan-led Advisory Commission on Rakhine State. Implementation will be a long-term process and Australia stands ready to assist Myanmar in its efforts.

We will need more of these meetings to address the current situation, but this meeting is a good start.

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