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Plight of the Rohingya strains ASEAN unity

'Noninterference' put to test as Malaysia blasts Myanmar's actions in Rakhine

YANGON In recent years, disputes over maritime claims in the South China Sea have been the main cause of discord within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. But a different kind of threat to regional cooperation has emerged from the ongoing tragedy in Myanmar's western Rakhine State.

Myanmar and Malaysia, both ASEAN members, have been at loggerheads over Rakhine since early October, when Muslim Rohingya militants stormed border posts along Myanmar's border with Bangladesh, killing nine policemen and seizing weapons caches. Myanmar's security forces subsequently launched a brutal counterinsurgency campaign that has driven nearly 70,000 Rohingya refugees into neighboring Bangladesh and displaced at least 23,000 more, according to United Nations agencies. As of early February, at least 600 Muslims were detained in northern Rakhine -- mainly in military camps -- on suspicion of aiding terrorism.

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