Indonesia President Visits Burma, Fails to Meet Muslim Leaders

Indonesia’s President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono talks at a Reuters Newsmaker event in Singapore April 23, 2013, before his visit to Burma. (Photo: Reuters)

RANGOON—Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono arrived in Burma for a two-day official state visit on Tuesday, during which he was expected to raise the issue of anti-Muslim violence with Burmese President Thein Sein.

But despite telling journalists in Jakarta before his departure that he would “continue helping to reach a positive outcome” on the issue of the persecution of Muslim Rohingyas in Burma, the Indonesian president apparently made no attempt to meet with Burmese Muslim or Rohingya representatives on his visit.

Yudhoyono flew to Naypyidaw on Tuesday to meet Thein Sein to strengthen bilateral ties and witness the signing of agreements on trade and investment. He is due to leave on Wednesday to attend the 22nd Asean summit in Brunei.

Yudhoyono also planned to discuss the plight of the Rohingya minority as there is strong sympathy for the persecuted group among the Indonesian public, which is mostly Muslim.

The Rohingyas, who are not officially recognized as Burmese citizens, were attacked by Buddhist mobs in Arakan State last year. Burmese government security forces were allegedly complicit in the violence, which displaced about 125,000 people.

Several Burmese Muslim and Rohingya groups said they contacted the Indonesian government in order to raise the issue with Yudhoyono during his visit, but they were turned down.

“I already contacted the first secretary of the Indonesian Embassy,” said Rohingya leader Abu Tahay, who chairs the Union National Development Party. “But he told me this is a state visit, not a working visit.”

“He said he will pass on the message to the president’s secretary. But for me, just to see the president for five minutes in person is very important for the Rohingya issue,” said Abu Tahay, who has met with US President Barack Obama, UK Prime Minister David Cameron and many other foreign officials during their visits to Burma.

Kyaw Khin, the chief secretary of the All Burma Muslim Federation, said the Indonesian Embassy also failed to follow up on the group’s request for a meeting with Yudhoyono.

“We want to meet with them, but so far we haven’t been contacted by the Indonesians,” he said. “We wish to share information about the recent violence in Pegu and Mandalay,” he said, referring to a string of attacks on Muslim communities in central Burma in March, which left at least 43 people—mostly Muslims—dead.

The Indonesian Embassy could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

Analysts with knowledge of Indonesian politics said Yudhoyono would have an interest in raising the anti-Muslim unrest with Thein Sein, but they doubted that Yudhoyono would make much progress during his current visit.

“The Rohingya is of course a problem for Indonesia… [but] my gut feeling is that there’s no way [Yudhoyono] would raise the issue unless it was just lip service for the domestic Indonesian audience,” said Yohannes Sulaiman, a lecturer at the Indonesian National Defense University.

Simon Long, associate fellow for Asia at Chatham House and Asia columnist for The Economist, said Yudhoyono would want to seek solutions to the Rohingya situation.

“I actually think both Indonesia’s government as a whole and [Yudhoyono] personally would want to help,” he said. “Diplomatically, it is reasserting a role as a regional leader and would like to see Asean free of the sort of opprobrium the treatment of the Rohingyas brings on Burma.

“As to whether he can be effective,” Long said, “I am very skeptical, since it seems to me there is virtually no constituency in Burma for recognizing the Rohingyas as an ethnic group or granting them citizenship.”

Andreas Harsono, Indonesia researcher for the US-based Human Rights Watch, said that Indonesia’s experience with inter-communal violence, which erupted across the country after the fall of General Suharto in 1998, served as a warning to Burma as it emerges from decades of military rule.

In Indonesia tens of thousands of people were killed—mostly ethnic minorities Aceh, Borneo, the Moluccas and Sulawesi provinces—but few perpetrators were ever prosecuted. This situation has led to culture of impunity in Indonesia and bolstered hardline Islamic groups, which have since been able to openly influence government officials and politicians.

Harsono warned that if the Burmese government failed to act against those responsible for the recent waves of anti-Muslim violence, it could further entrench a culture of impunity and lack of accountability in Burma.

“It’s a matter of rule of law. In Indonesia, most government officials have responded weakly to growing intolerance and acts of violence,” he wrote in an email. “The absence of leadership has emboldened groups willing to use violence against religious minorities and the local and national officials who cater to them.”

“If the [Burmese] government does not act against the perpetrators [of the anti-Muslim violence] it will create and enhance the culture of impunity in Burma,” he said. “Burma will never be a civilized and democratic country if it cannot deal with perpetrators of violence.”

16 Responses to Indonesia President Visits Burma, Fails to Meet Muslim Leaders

  1. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono deserves kick in his butt. He is gutless leader, far away from being a real leader. This gutless moron shouldn’t have come to Burma if there were no meeting with rohingya Muslims. I condemn his useless visit, go back to your country and enjoy nights in Bali. Poor and destitute Rohingyas are much more better people than this idiot Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

    • Why are you so mad at Indonesian president? The Burmese government does not allow him to meet the Muslim leaders. What can you do if you are not allowed by the owner? You are barking like a barking deer.

      • I was not pointless. He shouldn’t have come without that precondition. Either-Or approaches should have been followed. Leave aside all kinds of business talks before ensuring that Muslims in Burma are safe from the rogue state.

      • Remember, when you are silent in the period of oppression, you are supporting the side of oppressor’s. People like minded of you are supporting the oppressor’s side. I’m at least barking but you are hiding in bush and have muffled your voice even to burp. Only money and gold deserve your attraction like this don Quixote Bambang. He is a president of the largest Muslim populated country and can’t even manage a meeting. You better read the report again, and see what the Indonesian embassy has replied to Muslim leaders. they all are shameless cowards like you. thumbs down man, sorry.

        • when you are silent in the period of oppression, you are supporting the side of oppressor

          when you are silent in the period of oppression, you are supporting the side of oppressor

          when you are silent in the period of oppression, you are supporting the side of oppressor

          Was there any other hope? Tuk-tuk!

          In Loot and Pillage we trust. New Religion!

    • I suppose that the Indonesian president knows what he is doing and should be backed referring his wise attitude not to interfere in the socalled Rohingya matter. That’s a case between Bangladesh and Myanmar (and OIC countries should prepare to accept most of the “Rohingya” by granting them political & social asylum. That’s the only peaceful solution, for now and the future.

  2. Dear friends of the Indonesian and Myanmar people. The spirit of friendship and amity . and most of all loving kindness metta to all , embodies in thought and mind of His Excellency President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono of The Republic of Indonesia , with the people, the ordinary people living in Myanmar , irrespective of ther socio-economic status, religous beliefs, values and tradition , gender and , ethnicity . Both the Prsident of The Union of Myanmar H E U Thein Sein were leaders in their respective armed forces and both are looking forward to implementing not only peace, stability and development for their people but also to to bring to fruition the further fusion of understanding and solidarity within the members of the ASEAN community but also with the World Community. May the President’s of the two nations that has treaded the same historical path after the 2nd world war , health and well being continue, so as statesmen would together in solidarity and understanding , serve their country men-women to their best of their capabilities.

  3. Shame on you Mr. President of Indonesia. You got no time for Muslims of Burma. Yes trade is v.very important for yr country. Even in UK the public were shocked to see the BBC video which shows innocent Muslims were burnt to death, beaten to death. It was so gruesome that any humanbeing after watching this will never overcome it. Further EU has lifted sanctions against Burma, where human rights are abused on daily bases. What a shame.

  4. We are trying to contain and constrain the neo-Nazi so-called Buddhists, who probably are a small minority in the Myanmar community. Most Buddhists oppose to this view of this minor section.
    I fact these violent people, if they call themselves Buddhists, are no Buddhists at all, but rather men of extreme political views, nothing to do with the religious belief. The monk, Wirathu, who leads the leaflet and talk campaigns, may wear a yellow robe like the disciples of the Buddha, but he is characterized by anti-Buddhist views, the one intending to wrack the status of the religion in the hearts of true Buddhists.
    So, brother Muslims, please do not think for a moment Buddhsits are anti-Muslims, for they are not: they are taught, in practice, to tolerate and forbear differing views of life.
    Accommodation for peaceful co-existence is the watch word.

  5. if there was will, there was way

  6. Smart guy, never put his hand to the mess, I am pretty sure, he doesn’t want those Bengali.

  7. Even if you branded Rev.Wirathu and the Buddhist Burmese as Neo-Nazism or religious extremists, we Buddhists never committed violence like September 11 globalized terrorist attacks in the USA. The first case in Rakhine and the second in Meiktila, who started committing the crime and physical abuse? The Buddhists? All religions living peacefully is a joke! Even in Muslim countries in the Middle-east, frequent conflicts and attacks between Sunni and Shiite Muslim religious factions!!! Don’t say that Burma won’t be a civilized or undemocratic country – every country in the world including most developed countries has their religious supremacy, racism, majority and minority, Islamophobia, etc. How about religious supremacy in Mulsim countries? Can they peacefully live with other religions? NO – NEVER! So, don’t blame our country and our people!

  8. Indonesia President Visits Burma, Fails to Meet Muslim Leaders…why would he? His sole purpose was to wheel and deal and go home “mission accomplished” the rest of you go eat poop and die.

  9. Shame on you President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, we are not asking you to take off your pants and show your crown jewels; all we ask is “keep to your words” to discuss the plight of the Rohingya minority. Ah! I forgot you are a politician aka chameleon so this is expected; now go home and have some gado, gado.

  10. Welcome to “New World”. Only the callous survive.

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