KUALA LUMPUR (REUTERS, AFP) - Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called on Myanmar on Thursday (Jan 19) to stop all discrimination and attacks on Rohingya Muslims, and urged the world’s Islamic countries to act to end an unfolding “humanitarian tragedy”.
Malaysia has spoken out strongly against mostly Buddhist Myanmar over its treatment of its Rohingya minority, especially since October, when security forces launched a crackdown in the north of Rakhine State on the Bangladesh border, where many Rohingya live.
At least 86 people have been killed and an estimated 66,000 have fled into Bangladesh since nine Myanmar policemen were killed on Oct 9 in attacks on border posts the Myanmar government blamed on Rohingya supported by foreign militants.
“The killing must stop. The violation of women and girls must stop,” Najib told a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called by Malaysia to discuss the Rohingya.
“The persecution of your fellow men and women, simply on the grounds that they are Muslim, must stop,” he said.
Refugees, residents and human rights groups say Myanmar forces have committed summary executions, raped women and burned homes.
But the Myanmar government led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has denied the accusations, saying many of the reports are fabricated. It insists the strife in Rakhine State is an internal matter.
Najib has taken a lead role in condemning the Myanmar crackdown, joining protesters in Kuala Lumpur last month calling for foreign intervention to stop “genocide”.
Analysts say that is at least in part down to a desire to burnish his international image after a damaging graft scandal linked to Malaysia's state investment fund 1MDB.
The premier said on Thursday Myanmar must act.
“We call on the government of Myanmar to cease all discriminatory actions and attacks against the Rohingyas immediately, and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice,” he said.
Rohingya have faced discrimination in Myanmar for generations. They are not classified as a distinct group under citizenship law and are regarded instead as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, entitled only to limited rights.
The violence in the north of Rakhine State since October is the most serious since communal clashes in 2012 in which hundreds of people were killed.
Malaysia summoned Myanmar’s ambassador last year to protest against the treatment of Rohingya, breaking a tradition of non-intervention by members of the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean) in each other’s affairs.
Najib said it would be a disgrace if the Southeast Asian group did not live up to it principles and do its utmost to“avert the catastrophe that has been unfolding”.
He told the fellow Muslim countries of the OIC they could not “stand by and do nothing”.
“It is incumbent on us all to do what we can to save them from the humanitarian tragedy they are suffering,” he said.
The OIC represents 57 states with a population of more than 1.6 billion people, and acts as the collective voice of the Muslim world.
Najib called on Myanmar to provide unimpeded access for humanitarian aid to the affected areas and to facilitate the return of refugees.
He said Malaysia would give RM10 million (S$3.2 million) for the humanitarian efforts, and send a food flotilla. No further details were made available.
About 56,000 Rohingya live in Malaysia having fled and unrest and persecution in Myanmar. The OIC’s special envoy to Myanmar said this week the United Nations should intervene to avert genocide.
OIC Secretary General Yousef Al Othaimeen said Myanmar must prevent “ongoing discrimination and the unwarranted systematic abuse against the Rohingya”.
Malaysia’s top counter-terrorism official has said Myanmar faces a growing danger of attacks by foreign militants in support of Rohingyas.