Aid intended for conflict-ridden northern Rakhine State must now be routed through diplomatic channels and delivered by the government, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The announcement comes shortly after Malaysia irked its ASEAN counterpart by declaring plans last week to send an aid flotilla to Rakhine carrying food and emergency supplies, and as the international community continues to pressure Myanmar into resuming humanitarian access to the crisis-hit region.
In a statement issued on January 4, the State Counsellor’s Office said humanitarian aid sent to Rakhine, including recent proposals by ASEAN countries, must first be approved through diplomatic channels, with information provided as to the precise type, weight and amount of aid being supplied.
“Everybody who wants to donate aid to Rakhine must follow the government’s stated regulations and ASEAN member countries must follow the guidelines earnestly,” said the statement.
So far, only Indonesia has made a request. Indonesia will send 10 shipments to Maungdaw township, with the first containers expected to arrive at Yangon’s port on January 11, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
U Kyaw Moe Tun, director general of the International Organisation and Economic Department under the foreign affairs ministry, told The Myanmar Times yesterday that aid must be distributed fairly to both Muslim and Buddhist communities in Rakhine State – one of the country’s poorest – and cannot just go to Maungdaw district.
“We will not accept aid that does not go through proper diplomatic channels,” he said.
Since November, as many as 50,000 mostly Muslim Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh amid the security clampdown. International humanitarian assistance continues to be largely blocked, with 130,000 people who previously received food rations unable to receive them, including children the UN believes are malnourished.
However, an interim report released this week by the state-appointed commission on Rakhine said there were “no cases of malnutrition … found in the area, due to the area’s favourable fishing and farming conditions.”
Malaysia has said that it will send a flotilla with 1000 tonnes of rice on January 10. President’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay told Reuters last week that non-citizens may not enter Myanmar waters without permission. “If they do, we will respond – we will not attack them, but we will not receive them,” he told the wire.