ASEAN, China concerned over terrorists' fleeing from Marawi, Philippine official says
Southeast Asian countries and China have raised concern over the prolonged crisis in southern city of Marawi as terrorists may flee to their respective places and attempt to sow chaos there, a Philippine official said on Thursday.
Department of Interior and Local Government Officer-in-Charge Catalino Cuy said the concern was brought up during the 11th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime and its Related Meetings and Second Special ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on the Rise of Radicalization and Violent Extremism held in Pasay City.
"During the discussion, it was only mentioned the concern of the other member countries (about) the situation in Marawi. So they were concerned that the fighters who might be fighting in Marawi might go back to their respective countries and spread the terror when they get back home," he said in a press conference during the closing of the ASEAN meetings.
He noted there are some identified Malaysian and Indonesian fighters in Marawi.
"Even China expressed concern there might be Chinese nationals already in Marawi and they are worried that afterwards when the situation is resolved in Marawi, they might find another place and they go back to their respective countries," Cuy said.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines has been conducting operations against the Islamic State-inspired terrorists in Marawi since May 23. The rebellion in the city prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to declare martial law in the whole of Mindanao.
Asked if the deployment of forces from neighboring countries to Marawi being considered, Cuy said there was no discussion on the matter.
"You know, sending of (foreign) armed forces here is not taken up," he said.
China has donated to the Philippines long firearms and ammunition, which could be used by the government forces in Marawi.
However, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Chinese donations were all given to the Philippine National Police and not to the military.
Cuy said to prevent transnational crimes and violent extremism, the countries, which attended the meetings have agreed to intensify exchanges of information, training, equipment and strategies, among others.
Meanwhile, Cuy said it was not decided if ASEAN would tap the Trust Fund to Support Humanitarian and Relief Effort in the Event of Irregular Movement of Persons in Southeast Asia to address the problem involving the Rohingya Muslims fleeing from Myanmar due to violence there.
"It was not really decided yet. But it might fall into that category because irregular movement of persons. So what's happening in Rohingya is something not regular," he said.
He added it would be the ASEAN Secretariat, which will resolve the issue on whether the fund could be used for Ronghingya Muslims.
Cuy has said that the trust fund to support humanitarian and relief efforts on irregular movement of people among ASEAN countries has reached $900,000, with $450,000 already deposited in the bank.
The Philippines has made its contribution of $100,000 to the trust fund last year.
Thousands of Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine State in Myanmar have been fleeing to Bangladesh due to violence between the rebels and the military.
Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Syi has condemned human rights violations in the troubled Rakhine State. Celerina Monte/DMS