Plight of Myanmar's Rohingyas 'not an Asean community we can accept': Malaysia PM Najib

Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said that he would not heed the call for Malaysia to keep out of the Rohingya issue.
Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said that he would not heed the call for Malaysia to keep out of the Rohingya issue.PHOTO: THE STAR / ASIA NEWS NETWORK

KUALA LUMPUR (The Star/Asia News Network) - Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak said on Saturday (Dec 3) he will attend Sunday's Rohingya solidarity rally despite protests from the Myanmar government.

In his speech at the close of the annual Umno General Assembly, Najib said that he would not heed the call of Myanmar's deputy director general of the President's Office, U Zaw Htay, for Malaysia to keep out of the Rohingya issue.

"This is not an issue of meddling in Myanmar's matters. This is us defending humanitarian and universal values," Najib, who is Umno President, said to a standing ovation and chants of Allahu Akhbar (God is Great) of Umno delegates at the Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) on Saturday.

"I would like to ask you, what should I do? Attend? Insyallah, tomorrow Umno president Najib Razak will attend," he said to chants of "hadir!" (attend).

"How can we say, this is an internal matter? Because if Myanmar does not solve the problem, they (the Rohingya) will be refugees in Malaysia. And based on our records, Malaysia has 56,000 Rohingya and Myanmar nationals who hold UNHCR cards which we know of," he added.

Najib said there was no way Malaysia could keep quiet when there were people being burned alive and women being raped.

"This is not an Asean community that we can accept," he said.

Myanmar had warned Malaysia to respect the principle of non-interference after Najib agreed to attend a protest condemning the ongoing military operations in the Rakhine State.

Violence in the past few weeks against the Rohingya has resulted in at least 86 people being killed and with more than 30,000 displaced. Many have tried fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh.

Myanmar troops poured into the western state of Rakhine in response to coordinated attacks on three border posts on Oct 9 that killed nine police officers.

Human rights groups have accused the military and border guard forces of raping Rohinya women, torching houses and killing civilians, although this has been denied by the Myanmar government and military.

Considered to be stateless and often subjected to arbitrary violence and forced labour in Myanmar, the Rohingya are considered by the United Nations as one of the most persecuted minorities in the world.