KUALA LUMPUR/YANGON • Hundreds of protesters demonstrated in Malaysia yesterday in support of Myanmar's Rohingya Muslim minority after renewed violence forced thousands to flee the country.
About 1,000 protesters, most of whom were believed to be Rohingya, gathered yesterday near a major road in Kuala Lumpur calling for an end to violence against the minority.
In Yangon, meanwhile, dozens of Myanmar nationalists held a rally opposing a report by a commission led by former United Nations chief Kofi Annan about conditions in northern Rakhine state.
Mr Annan said he was "deeply concerned" by reports of human rights abuses there.
The Yangon protesters were also rallying against recent attacks reportedly carried out by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army in Rakhine, according to the European Pressphoto Agency.
Nationalist Buddhist monk Wirathu, the spiritual leader of the anti-Muslim movement in Myanmar, attended the rally with about 300 people, including Buddhist monks.
Fresh fighting broke out in Rakhine last week between security forces and Rohingya militants after the militants staged raids on police posts.
In Kuala Lumpur, some of the demonstrators cried and claimed that their families were being killed, while others waved banners that read "Stop Rohingya genocide" and "Save Rohingya". The demonstration was peaceful but about 20 protesters were arrested for alleged immigration offences.
A smaller protest was also held outside the Myanmar embassy. "We are demanding (Myanmar) stop this violence against the Rohingya," said Mr Mohd Azmi Abdul Hamid, leading the protest group.
An influential Muslim group, the Malaysian Consultative Council of Islamic Organisations, yesterday called on the government to expel all Myanmar nationals if violence against the Rohingya is not stopped, Malaysia's state news agency Bernama reported.
The violence is ongoing, and at least 110 people have been so far confirmed dead while at least 18,500 Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
The Bangladeshi authorities yesterday toughened patrols in a bid to prevent more arrivals in a country that already hosts an estimated 400,000 Rohingya.
The office of de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi said earlier that militants have repeatedly detonated homemade explosives, and attempted to firebomb police posts and ambush patrols.
Myanmar classifies the militants as "Bengali terrorists" and blames them for setting fire to both their own and other communities' houses.
There are almost 60,000 Rohingya refugees in Malaysia, according to the UN.