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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - MANILA: President Rodrigo Duterte has urged Malaysia and Indonesia to accept Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution in the northern Rakhine province of Myanmar (Burma).
Duterte made the call on Monday as he expressed anew his solidarity with the persecuted minority group, reiterating his willingness to accept them in the Philippines.
“I am prepared. I have communicated my desire that if the Rohingya in Burma want to migrate, I will accept them,” the tough-talking president said in a speech Monday evening in Cotabato City where he led the distribution of Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) to Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARB) in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). A series of explosions that rocked Cotabato City and neighboring towns on Sunday night did not prevent Duterte from attending the event. “We have big lands. The people there are pitiful, the Muslims,” Duterte said, referring to the Rohingya refugees.
In his speech, Duterte pointed out that the Rohingya people are not accepted in Burma because of their religion.
“They’re from Sri Lanka, then they migrated (to Burma) ... but they are unwanted because the people there are Buddhists ... They (Rohingya people) are Muslims so they’re being executed,” according to Duterte. “So they became boat people and went to Australia. When they got there, Australia pushed them back (to Myanmar),” he continued.
• The Philippines took in Vietnamese boat people fleeing the Vietnam war between 1975 to 1992.
Duterte then recalled how the Philippines took in Vietnamese boat people fleeing the Vietnam War between 1975 to 1992. “We accepted Vietnamese in the past, didn’t we? ... there in Palawan,” Duterte said, as he reiterated his openness to also accept the Rohingya people.
“Let’s take them in. Mindanao is big, there are fields where they can farm . . . Let’s teach them how to survive. We will accept the Rohingya refugees,” said the president.
Duterte then called on Malaysia and Indonesia, both Muslim majority countries, to do the same.
“Let’s share among us- Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines,” he said.
In February this year, Duterte also offered Filipino citizenship to the Rohingya refugees.
“Those who really have nowhere else to go, I will accept them. I will make them Filipinos,” he said before a convention of municipal mayors at the Manila Hotel. In April last year, Myanmar criticized Duterte after the Philippine president said in a speech that we was willing to provide sanctuary for Rohingya fleeing what he called “genocide” in the Rakhine State.
Responding to his remarks, Myanmar government Zaw Htay said Duterte “doesn’t know
anything” about their country and that it was the “usual behavior” of the Philippine president “to
speak without restraint.”
Duterte later apologized to his Myanmar counterpart Aung San Suu Kyi for his genocide remark.
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