KUALA LUMPUR: Myanmar has allowed an aid flotilla from Malaysia to enter its waters from Feb 3, the lead organiser of the humanitarian mission confirmed on Wednesday (Jan 18).
However, the shipment, meant for the ethnic Rohingya community, can only be dropped off in Yangon and not Sittwe as originally planned, said Mr Abdul Mutalif Abdul Rahim, treasurer of the Putera 1Malaysia Club.
Following a meeting involving the Myanmar authorities and a Malaysian delegation, Malaysia's ambassador to Myanmar Mohd Haniff Abdul Rahman said Malaysia received tacit approval for its aid delivery, local daily Harian Metro reported.
The ambassador said the approval came with certain conditions, which he did not spell out, according to the report.
Malaysia's Foreign Ministry did not respond when contacted on Wednesday evening.
The vessel carrying food and other supplies was supposed to set sail for Sittwe on Jan 10, but the journey was postponed after Myanmar refused to grant permission for it.
This was after the Malaysian government publicly criticised Myanmar late last year for the reported atrocities in Rakhine state, with Prime Minister Najib Razak calling for foreign intervention to stop what he called the "genocide" of Rohingya Muslims.
His comments have angered the Myanmar government, who insisted the reports were exaggerated.
SPECIAL OIC MEETING AHEAD
The apparent green light comes as foreign ministers from the member countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are scheduled to meet in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday to deliberate on the plight of the ethnic Muslim Rohingya.
Malaysia's Foreign Minister Anifah Aman told media on Wednesday ahead of the extraordinary meeting that Kuala Lumpur would press for unimpeded access of international humanitarian aid to Rakhine and the safe return of those displaced.
"The problem faced by the Rohingya is not new," said Mr Anifah. "However, in recent months, we have seen the spillover effect of actions in Myanmar through mass exodus of Rohingya across the borders of Bangladesh. This is a matter of concern to the OIC since it affects the Muslim ummah, which OIC was established to protect."
However, that is not going to be easy, as even the OIC special envoy to Myanmar Syed Hamid Albar has admitted.
He said Nay Pyi Taw has always viewed the OIC, which groups 57 Islamic countries, with great scepticism.
"They are so scared of the OIC, that it would encourage the Rohingya to be more against the Buddhists," said Mr Syed Hamid. "It's ridiculous. OIC is not a religious body. It's a cooperative multi-lateral body."
He called on Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi to prevent the humanitarian crisis from worsening and to recognise the Rohingya as citizens.
"When she was suppressed and held under house arrest, we used to go and see the military and tell them they should not mistreat (her)," said Mr Syed Hamid.
"(We told them) 'the international community will be against you'. Now it's her turn to become the Mandela of Asia, but she hasn't seized the opportunity," he added.
More than 30 OIC member states are expected to attend the one-day meeting, where PM Najib will deliver the keynote address. A joint communique is expected to be issued at 6pm on Thursday.