Duterte regrets Myanmar ‘genocide’ remark

Second-placed series of images of World Press Photo 2018 contest for General News Stories shows Rohingya refugees carrying their belongings after fleeing Myanmar, as they walk on the Bangladesh side of the Naf River, Bangladesh. (File Photo: By Kevin Frayer, Getty Images via Reuters)
Updated 16 April 2018
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Duterte regrets Myanmar ‘genocide’ remark

  • Philippine president apologizes to Burma, saying he was being sarcastic because of European countries
  • Duterte pointed out that it wasn’t his intention to interfere in Myanmar’s internal affairs

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte apologized on Friday to Burma’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, for saying that “genocide” is taking place in Myanmar.
Duterte made the “genocide” comment in a speech on April 5, in which he also expressed willingness to accept Rohingya refugees.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple said Duterte’s change of statement was “expected of him.”
In a news briefing at the Davao International Airport upon his return from Boao Forum on Asia in China early Friday morning, the president pointed out that it wasn’t his intention to interfere in Myanmar’s internal affairs. He added that his “genocide” comment was sarcastic.
Addressing Suu Kyi, Duterte said: “I will apologize to you but if you have noticed, my statement was almost a satire ... because these Europeans are saying there’s a lot of violations of human rights in Burma.”
“They keep on attacking Burma ... So I say, what are you doing? Do you have any plans to provide a safe sanctuary even for a moment for those who are really the victims of war? There’s a civil war going on. None, they have no (plans),” he added.
While Duterte has offered to accept Rohingya refugees, he also said that “we should split it with Europe.”
“They keep on criticizing us, Aung (San Suu) Kyi and the others. Now, why did I say that? Madam Chancellor, let me confess to you publicly. I was making a ... a very sarcastic (remark),” Duterte said.
“I was just adapting their findings that there are a lot of violations in your country. I am not ready to intervene in your (internal affairs). I was just using (it) because I said, if you are willing, you guys in Europe, to receive, provide sanctuary or, in the meantime, allow the Rohingyas to stay in your country, I will also do it,” he continued.
Asked for a comment on Duterte’s apology, presidential chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said “it was in regard to his earlier statement which was more in the nature of sarcasm directed at European and Western countries that criticized the alleged human rights violations (in Myanmar) with no accompanying offer (of) sanctuary to the refugees.
“The apology was made in regard to PRRD’s (President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s) adopting the conclusion of the aforesaid critical governments that there were violations of human rights in Myanmar which would appear to be an intrusion into (their internal) affairs,” he added.
Panelo added that the offer to provide a place for the refugees was consistent with Duterte’s and the Filipino people’s compassionate and accommodating nature and the president’s policy of assisting those perceived to be victims of human rights violations from any part of the world.
Meanwhile, Casiple, when asked to comment on Duterte’s apology to the Myanmar leader, said: “That’s expected of him.”
“Even his genocide remark was expected of him. I think it’s because he is under attack on that issue (human rights). So I think that’s why he made that remark,” Casiple told Arab News.
“The problem is, Myanmar reacted to his comment. And considering the importance of the ASEAN to his foreign policy... what he did was the logical thing to do. He apologized. So that kills two birds with one stone,” he added,
Casiple also stressed that it’s a different case when the President is talking of formal policy. “Because it’s not spoken. It has to be a written agreement. So that would have to go through (Foreign Affairs Secretary Allan) Cayetano and so on.
“But the off-hand comments are basically his own, and I’ve always said to the media, don’t believe him. Only when he does something, then that would be it,” he added.


Indonesian fishermen return home after release from Philippines militants

Updated 14 min 2 sec ago
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Indonesian fishermen return home after release from Philippines militants

  • With the release of the trio, all Indonesians abducted by Filipino militants before 2018 have been released
  • Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines wil boost security cooperation in the Sulu Sea, which is a busy maritime area for fishing boats and cargo vessels transporting coal from Indonesia to the Philippines

JAKARTA: After 20 months being held hostage by militants in the southern Philippines, three Indonesian fishermen were finally reunited on Wednesday with their respective families at the Foreign Ministry.

Vice Foreign Minister A.M. Fachir handed them over from the government to their respective family representatives in a ceremony which was held without media presence.
 
"The condition on the field was getting more difficult. But we made the most of our contacts and assets on the field, and with the Philippines government support we were able to get them released,” Fachir said in a statement from the ministry. .
 
Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, the Foreign Ministry’s director for protection of Indonesians abroad, said the handover was held in private because “it was not a cause for celebration.”
 
“We are grateful for their release, but we still have two Indonesians who were abducted on Sept. 11 and we don’t want to hurt their families’ feeling,” Iqbal said.
 
The three fishermen are Hamdan bin Saleng, Sudarling bin Samansunga, and Subandi bin Sattu, who hail from Selayar and Bulukumba in South Sulawesi province. They were freed from their captors on Friday in Sulu province on the southern Philippines.
 
Rudi Wahyudin, a representative of Sattu’s family, said the family members were devastated during the 20 months Sattu was held hostage but they tried to keep their hopes up by keeping in touch with the foreign ministry to get updates of efforts to release him and his fellow fishermen.
 
“It’s normal for people in our village in Bulukumba to migrate and work abroad. Now his wife has asked Sattu to quit working overseas and find another job close to home instead,” Wahyudin said.
 
Indonesian ambassador to the Philippines, Sinyo Harry Sarundajang said the military attache and he flew to Zamboanga City to pick up the three men, after the embassy received information of their release from the West Mindanao Command.
 
“We thank President Duterte and the Philippines government for their attention and cooperation on this matter. It was a long and delicate process to release them and we had to be very careful because we didn’t want anyone to become victim in the process,” Sarundajang said at the press conference.    
 
According to the ambassador, the three men were moved and had to island-hopped to various small islands on the Sulu archipelago as their captors were avoiding the Philippine military operation.
 
The three men were working as crew members in a Malaysian fishing boat when they were abducted in the waters of Sabah in Malaysia on Jan 2017.
 
Iqbal said there are about 6,000 Indonesians working in fishing vessels in Sabah. Since 2016, there has been 34 Indonesian citizens who were kidnapped by armed militants in the southern Philippines and 13 of them were fishermen who were abducted from their vessels in the waters of Sabah.
 
With the release of the trio, all Indonesians abducted by Filipino militants before 2018 have been released.
 
“We are now working to release the two fishermen who were abducted on Sep 11. We have expressed our concerns to the Malaysian authority on the lack of security on their waters,” Iqbal said.
 
He added that Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines would boost security cooperation in the Sulu Sea between the three countries, which is a busy maritime area for fishing boats and cargo vessels transporting coal from Indonesia to the Philippines.
 
The three neighboring countries agreed in May 2016 to launch joint patrols in the area following a series of hijacking and kidnapping of Indonesian vessels and crew members. The initial maritime patrol was launched in June 2017 and was beefed up with air patrols in Oct 2017.