Indonesia’s foreign minister is due to meet Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi on Monday to discuss delivering humanitarian aid to members of Myanmar’s Rohingya minority, as Indonesian protesters urged their government to take a tougher line. Dozens of Indonesians protested outside the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta on Monday, calling for a cut in diplomatic ties with Myanmar over violence against its Rohingya Muslim minority.
Aid agencies estimate that about 90,000 Rohingya have fled from Myanmar into neighbouring Bangladesh since violence erupted in the north of Rakhine state last week. “We will discuss in detail Indonesia’s proposal on how Indonesia can give humanitarian aid to Rakhine state,” Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said in a video statement from the Myanmar city of Yangon.
She is also scheduled to travel to Bangladesh to urge authorities there to protect fleeing Rohingya refugees. In a sign of mounting public anger in Jakarta, a petrol bomb was thrown at the Myanmar embassy on Sunday, causing a small fire. The protests follow demonstrations in Malaysia and condemnation from world leaders such as President Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who on Friday said the violence against Muslims amounted to genocide.
The Rohingya are denied citizenship in Myanmar and regarded as illegal immigrants, despite claiming roots that date back centuries. Bangladesh is also growing increasingly hostile to Rohingya, more than 400,000 of whom live in the poor South Asian country after fleeing Myanmar since the early 1990s. Indonesia is home to the world’s largest population of Muslims. Its government has been actively involved in providing aid for Myanmar to develop Rakhine state and protect the rights of the Rohingya, alongside the majority Buddhist community.
Ifah Rohma, an activist from a Jakarta-based organisation called Muslim Friends of Rohingya, said many Indonesians as fellow Muslims were concerned about the fate of Rohingya. “Indonesia should not be engaging in soft diplomacy,” Rohma said outside the Myanmar embassy, which was surrounded by heavy security and barbed wire. “Now is the time to cut ties, recall our ambassador and expel their ambassador,” she said. Myanmar says its security forces are fighting a legitimate campaign against “terrorists” responsible for a string of attacks on police posts and the army since last October.