Last night at the 29th Asia Pacific Roundtable (#29APR) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak used the opening minute of his prepared remarks to draw attention to the Rohingya.
His text read:
I am deeply concerned by the plight of the Rohingya migrants trying to reach our shores. I was particularly shocked by the discovery of graves of alleged victims of people smugglers along the Malaysia-Thailand border. We must find and punish those responsible. The migrant issue should be resolved at ASEAN level with assistance from other countries and international bodies as needed – only if countries work in unison can we defeat this trade in human misery.
He went on to say:
The challenges for Asia Pacific are many. But so are the opportunities. In my interactions with other heads of government, it is clear to me that there is a great genuine desire to harness the great potential of our region and address any difficulties in a collaborative, accommodating and constructive way.
The Prime Minister then used the final moments of his speech to issue a call for a “balanced and constructive approach” to the region’s contentious issues. He told the assembled diplomats, academics and journalists:
I would therefore like to encourage you all, the participants of this 29th Asia-Pacific Roundtable, to adopt a balanced and constructive approach towards the issues to be discussed over the next couple of days.
It is easy to highlight what and where the problems are. It is a lot more difficult to arrive at practical and realistic solutions. I urge you to take that difficult road, and, in the process, make a real difference to the Asia Pacific and to the world.
Those “practical and realistic solutions” are hard to find in the case of the Rohingya. Time will tell if there is the local, national, regional and global leadership required to walk down Prime Minister Najib’s difficult road.
Nicholas Farrelly is the co-founder of New Mandala and a speaker at the 29th Asia Pacific Roundtable