Malaysia’s ‘Food Flotilla’ Plans to go Ahead Despite Burma Govt Plea

By Rik Glauert 9 January 2017

RANGOON — A Malaysian organization plans to proceed with its controversial Arakan State “food flotilla” later this month despite a plea from Burma’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Malaysian Embassy to block the shipment, organizers confirmed on Monday.

“There is no question about cancelation, no issue at all,” Malaysia Consultative Council of Islamic Organizations (MAPIM) spokesperson Wan Nordin told The Irrawaddy, adding that the group had communicated with the Malaysian authorities but was waiting a reply.

The food flotilla is scheduled to leave Malaysia on Jan. 31.

Burma’s foreign ministry confirmed on Saturday that it had contacted the Malaysian Embassy on Jan. 5 to request that they prevent the shipment, according to a release from the State Counselor’s Office Information Committee.

The statement said that the Burma government had requested Malaysia “take necessary measures to prevent the reported attempt by certain NGOs to send aid flotilla which cannot be allowed to enter without prior approval from the Government of Myanmar.”

The MAPIM shipment to provide food and medicine for Maungdaw and Buthidaung townships has ruffled government feathers after it reportedly received no communication from either the Malaysian Embassy or the aid organization.

A statement last week from the foreign ministry said that aid proposals should be sent through proper diplomatic channels and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement. The Government of Arakan State would be responsible for distributing aid to the region, the statement said.

The ministry outlined that “cash or in-kind assistance are to be meant for both communities without any distinction,” referring to Buddhist Arakanese and Muslim Rohingya.

Wan Nordin said that giving to both communities was common practice for the Malaysian organization and that in 2015 it had distributed aid to Buddhist communities in Sittwe and Rangoon.

He said that in previous instances the group had cooperated with local NGOs, and authorities, to deliver aid to camps and poor communities.

President’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay told The Irrawaddy last month that the Burmese navy would warn the ship to return to Malaysia, or it would turn it back by force.