Indonesian foreign minister on Wednesday called on Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries to help ensure safety for Rohingya refugees.

Speaking at the bloc’s virtual foreign minister meeting, Retno Marsudi said the voluntary, safe and dignified repatriation of Rohingya has been put on hold due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“Repatriation remains a priority for Indonesia. We have to keep trying to return them to their home in Rakhine State,” she said in a news conference following the meeting.

Retno said efforts to prepare for repatriation must continue in line with principles of voluntary return with safety and dignity.

Speaking at the meeting, ASEAN Secretary-General Lim Jock Hoi submitted a report on the secretariat’s work in assisting the repatriation process of Rohingya refugees from Cox’s Bazzar in Bangladesh to Myanmar.

Lim said ASEAN Secretariat team began working on the repatriation in February with Indonesia’s funds.

He stressed the importance of providing basic needs and services in Rakhine State to ensure the welfare of Rohingya residents by providing fisheries and agriculture facilities.

“Equipment support is needed to stimulate agricultural industry,” said Lim.

He added that financial supports for two projects were being discussed among ASEAN member and partner countries.

The 11-member association was established on Aug. 8, 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand, with the signing of the ASEAN Declaration by Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia joined in later years.

*Writing by Rhany Chairunissa Rufinaldo from Anadolu Agency’s Indonesian language services in Jakarta

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