Maldives – Myanmar relationship status: “its complicated” or “married”

The government of the Maldives has been misleading its citizenry on its stand against Myanmar till 15 September 2017. The political leadership has been condemning the atrocities on the Rohingya people since 3 September 2017, the day it severed all trade-ties with Myanmar. The government even organized fundraising campaign and a telethon is scheduled to be held from 21-23 September 2017. The government effort is led by cabinet ministers with Defence Minister Adam Shareef Umar as the lead member. The amount raised so far is not revealed.

The Maldivians are very vocal on social media against the atrocities subjected on the Rohingya people . In several islands, including Maarandhoo (HA Atoll), Kamadhoo (Baa Atoll), Gahdhoo (GDh Atoll) and Villigili (GA Atoll), solidarity marches have taken place. Raajje TV, a private broadcaster has raised more than MVR 4 million (USD 260,000) to help Rohingya refugees fleeing the violence.

For the Maldivian citizenry, their government is with the Rohingya people, ready to go any length to support and help the helpless Rohingya people, with utmost concern. They were willing to accept the decision to cut trade-ties with Myanmar as a gesture of compassion and support to the oppressed Rohingya community, even though they expected the government to cut political relations with Myanmar.

Contrary to its public stand and the rhetoric of the government, when the Maldives failed to participate in the vote on “The Responsibility to Protect and the prevention of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity” on 15 September 2017, whether to include it as a supplementary item on the Formal Agenda for General Assembly’s 72nd session, Maldivians were hit as a bolt from the blue. As a result, this issue became rampant on social media as statuses or concerns. Owing to the harsh and strong criticism, instead of accepting the mistake, the Foreign Ministry tried to justify their stand by trying to convince the people that Draft Item had no relevance to the Rohingya crisis. A statement was released by the Foreign Ministry (only in Dhivehi) on 16 September 2017. People strongly reacted to this statement, and to calm the public, on 17 September 2017, the Ambassador-designate to Sri Lanka, Mohamed Hussain Shareef told the state media, Public Service Media that Maldives is working with other countries to submit a resolution to address the Rohingya crisis. The Foreign Ministry has to admitted such an effort and the people are questioning the sincerity of their government.

Former foreign minister and former Speaker, Abdulla Shahid believed that the Maldives has lost the autonomy to decide its own foreign policy directives due to its posture and over-dependence on China. Whether this is true or not, from the behaviour (especially on R2P vote), it is clear that Myanmar is not single in the global forum. Despite the cut of trade-ties, the Maldives – Myanmar relations is not complicated. The most likely relationship status for the two countries is, married, officiated by China.



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