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Rohingya Muslims represent an “unconventional threat” to the entire Southeast Asia region, according to the commander-in-chief of Burma’s armed forces, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing.
Speaking at a gathering of his regional counterparts on Monday, the Burmese armed forces leader called for closer cooperation between the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to address the problem of Rohingya migration.
The senior general raised the issue at the 13th ASEAN Chiefs of Defence Forces Informal Meeting in Vientiane, Laos, according the state-run newspaper The Global New Light of Myanmar.
At the gathering, he stressed the need to work together to combat “terrorism” related to “the ‘Bengali’ [Rohingya] issue,” the newspaper reported.
A post on his Facebook page claimed that “extremist organisations” were supporting efforts “for the recognition of Bengalis in Rakhine [Arakan] State as Rohingya.”
“It is therefore necessary to extend cooperation, coordination and collaboration so as to prevent extremism and terrorism as well as the Bengali issue,” the post added.
During his stay in Laos, Min Aung Hlaing also held bilateral talks with the military chiefs of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, according to The Global New Light of Myanmar. No details about what was discussed were provided.
Burma’s stance on the Rohingya issue is controversial in other countries in the region, where many see it as a case of religious persecution of a Muslim minority.
Last year, Malaysia’s former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad—once a strong advocate of engagement with Burma at a time when it faced international isolation under military rule—called for the country’s expulsion from ASEAN for “committing genocide” against the Rohingya.