Malaysian ‘Food Flotilla’ to Arakan State Set to Go Ahead

By Rik Glauert & Htet Naing Zaw 19 January 2017

NAYPYIDAW — The Malaysian “food flotilla” to Arakan State is set to go ahead after organizers made a formal request to President U Htin Kyaw and met with the foreign ministry in Rangoon on Wednesday.

The aid plan would likely be permitted after requests were sent through appropriate official channels, foreign ministry spokesperson Daw Aye Aye Soe said.

The food flotilla organized by the Malaysian Consultative Council for Islamic Organization (MAPIM), Putera 1Malaysia Club (KP1M), and Turkiye Diyanet Vakfi is scheduled to leave Malaysia on Feb. 3.

Representatives of the three groups met with Director General for International Organizations under the foreign ministry U Kyaw Moe Tun and Union Minister for Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement Dr Win Myat Aye in Rangoon on Wednesday, according to Datok Farid, deputy president of KP1M and chairman of the food flotilla working committee.

Datok Farid told the Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the group received verbal clearance, but not written approval, to deliver aid through Rangoon port.

A request to deliver to Arakan State capital Sittwe was denied on security grounds, he added.

Malaysia’s Ambassador to Burma Mohd Haniff Abd Rahman was also present at the meeting.

A delegation of the three organizations also visited Dhaka and met with Bangladeshi authorities.

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

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

The foreign ministry released a statement saying that aid proposals should be sent through proper diplomatic channels and the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement.

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.