Malaysia may exit Suzuki Cup in protest

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia is considering pulling its side out of a major regional soccer tournament co- hosted by Myanmar in protest over the country's crackdown on ethnic Rohingya Muslims, a senior official said yesterday.

A withdrawal by Muslim-majority Malaysia from the Asean Football Federation's Suzuki Cup, which began last Saturday, would run counter to the 10-member Asean's long-standing policy of non-interference. "I raised this issue in Cabinet last week. Will do so again this week and stand guided by decision," Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said on Twitter.

His tweet was in response to a call by Perlis state cleric Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin for the Harimau Malaysia team to boycott the tournament, which is co-hosted with the Philippines. Malaysia's Cabinet is expected to meet tomorrow.

The conflict in Myanmar's north- western Rakhine state has sent hundreds of Rohingya Muslims fleeing to Bangladesh and poses a serious challenge to Nobel peace prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, who swept to power last year on pledges of national reconciliation.

Myanmar soldiers have poured into Rakhine since Oct 9, after an insurgent group of Rohingyas attacked border guard posts. The violence is said to have killed at least 86 people and displaced 30,000.

Myanmar soldiers have been accused of sexually assaulting dozens of women from the minority group.

"While we've known for a while that Myanmar will be the host, this (decision) is based on recent reports from Rakhine that showed proof of attacks, that reportedly show evidence of genocide," Mr Khairy told reporters. "We must continue to speak up."


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 24, 2016, with the headline 'Malaysia may exit Suzuki Cup in protest'. Subscribe