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Conflicts in West Myanmar more than religious issue: ASEAN chief…so is in South Siam

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct. 30 (Xinhua) — The conflict in Myanmar’s western state of Rakhine is not just a religious issue, ASEAN Secretary General Surin Pitsuwan said Tuesday, warning a spillover that may threaten the stability and security of the whole region.

Speaking at the Lecture series organized by Malaysia’s Global Movement of Moderates Foundation in Kuala Lumpur, Surin said he was very concerned on the situation in the Rakhine state.

“It’s not an issue of MuslimsBuddhists, that’s only part of it. It’s an issue of constitutional structure, it’s an issue of democracy, it is an issue of human rights, it’s an issue of national reconciliation, and that issue can spill out very quick and very fast,” he said.

Surin also warned that presenting the riots as religious issue may escalate the conflict.

People in despair would try everything to catch the attention of the international community, and in the case of Rakhine, “that will not be good for anyone in the region and beyond,” Surin told reporters during the press conference after the speech.

According to Myanmar’s official media reports, the week-long renewed rioting in the country’s western state of Rakhine had been controlled by Oct. 27 and the situation there is returning to normalcy.

The latest wave of clashes between Buddhists and Muslims has killed 84 people and the number of the injured also jumped to 129 as of Oct. 27 from Oct. 21, reports said.

The riot, which initially spread from Minbya to as many as nine areas covering Mrauk U, Kyauk Phyu, Myaebon, Yathedaung, Kyauktaw, Pauktaw, Yanbye and Thandwe, has left more than 20,000 people homeless, according to local sources.

Surin urged all ASEAN members to look into the issue for a common strategy, saying it would be odd for the regional bloc to keep silent as many others have spoken out.

ASEAN has established its legitimacy in humanitarian assistance during the aftermath of cyclone Nargis in 2008, which had brought devastating consequences to the country, and it could play a similar role in Rakhine’s case, providing the support and cooperation of the government of Myanmar, Surin said

However, Myanmar government has so far declined the proposal of assistance, saying it is Myanmar’s internal matter, he said, adding a consensus would be necessary for actions.

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