KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's armed forces chief General Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin has urged the Myanmar government to resolve the Rohingya crisis before it is exploited by militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to extend its influence in the region.
He conveyed his views to Myanmar armed forces General Min Aung Hlaing and Myanmar President Htin Kyaw in separate meetings with them on Monday, said a statement from Malaysia's armed forces.
"Gen Zulkifeli told Gen Min Aung Hlaing that if it is not handled well and with wisdom, it could create a situation which will be exploited by Daesh (another name for ISIS)... The same view was conveyed when Gen Zulkifeli met Myanmar President Htin Kyaw," the statement said.
Gen Zulkifeli also stressed that Asean cooperation is needed to tackle the ISIS threat.
Diplomatic ties between Malaysia and Myanmar were strained after Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak took part in a rally in Kuala Lumpur last Sunday over what he called the "genocide" of the Muslim minority community in Myanmar's Rakhine state.
The Myanmar government has since ordered its employment agencies to stop sending migrant workers to Malaysia. It has also summoned Malaysia's ambassador over what it described as Mr Najib's "unverified and unsubstantiated allegations".
A military crackdown in Rakhine since October has pushed tens of thousands of Rohingya across the border into Bangladesh, with survivors recounting how whole villages were razed to the ground and the community suffered rape, torture and murder at the hands of Myanmar security forces.
Myanmar has said its military is hunting down militants behind the October attacks on its border posts. The government has denied allegations of abuse and banned foreign journalists and independent investigators from the area.
Much of Buddhist-majority Myanmar views the Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, even though many Rohingya have lived there for generations.
Malaysia currently hosts some 55,000 Rohingya refugees, most of whom risked their lives to cross the Andaman Sea to head for the Muslim-majority country.