Jakarta. Indonesia and Laos agreed to help solve the humanitarian crisis in Rakhine State, Myanmar, during a meeting between President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo and Laotian Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith in Bogor, West Java, on Thursday (12/10).
"During our meeting, we discussed issues surrounding Asean [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations] and the region as a whole. We agreed to help solve the problems in Rakhine, Myanmar," Jokowi said during a press conference, as quoted by Investor Daily.
More than 500,000 Rohingyas have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh, after insurgent attacks triggered a military crackdown in the violence-prone region in August.
Indonesia has been active in addressing the humanitarian crisis by providing aid in cooperation with the Myanmar government and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), as well as by dialogues held by Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi with Myanmar officials early in September.
Violence perpetrated by Myanmar's security forces has brought into question the role of Asean in addressing problems concerning its members, as the regional bloc adheres to the principle of non-interference.
The Indonesia-Laos declaration on Thursday may pave way for stronger collaboration with the remaining nine Asean members to step up efforts and hold Myanmar accountable for what United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein described as "a textbook example of ethnic cleansing."
This year marks the 60th anniversary of Indonesia-Laos diplomatic relations. According to a press release issued by the Cabinet Secretariat, President Jokowi and Prime Minister Sisoulith agreed to focus on strengthening cooperation in trade, investment, defense, security and socio-cultural affairs.
Three memoranda of understanding (MoUs) were signed during the meeting, concerning cooperation in education, higher education and surveillance to curb illegal drugs.
Sisoulith also visited the 32nd Trade Expo Indonesia in Tangerang, Banten.
He is expected to meet representatives of Indonesia's strategic industries — from Dirgantara Indonesia, Pindad and Pertamina — and to attend the Indonesia-Laos Business Forum.
During the meeting, Jokowi called for stronger cooperation in combating illegal drugs and agreed to strengthen capacity-building efforts.
He said Indonesian investors are interested in investing in Laos's mining and fertilizer industries.