KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's ruling party Umno led a protest on Friday (Sept 8) against the violence afflicting the Muslim Rohingya community in Myanmar, with Prime Minister Najib Razak saying he might discuss the Rohingya issue when he meets US President Donald Trump next week.
"Yes, I might bring this matter to him," the premier said when queried by reporters. He is visiting Washington to meet Mr Trump at the White House on Tuesday (Sept 12).
The demonstration marks the third Rohingya protest in two weeks on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, but the first involving Malay-Muslim ruling party Umno.
A leader of the protest called on the Malaysian government to shut down the Myanmar diplomatic mission if violence continues against the Rohingya in Myanmar's western Rakhine state.
Datuk Seri Najib told reporters the Rohingya issue had to be resolved “at the source”.
“It is unfair for affected parties to inflict more cost to Malaysia to manage and to receive these people when they should be allowed fundamental and universal rights that have been denied to them,” he said.
A second Malaysian humanitarian mission to help the Rohingya in Bangladesh will depart on Saturday.
In the last two weeks, some 270,000 Rohingya civilians have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh, overwhelming refugee camps.
The latest bout of violence started after Rohingya militants launched a series of coordinated attacks on Aug 25, prompting a military-led crackdown.
More than 1,000 people may already have been killed in Myanmar, mostly minority Rohingya Muslims, Mr Yanghee Lee, UN special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, told AFP.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the proposal by an Umno division in Terengganu - that Datuk Seri Najib raise the Rohingya issue with Mr Trump - should be supported by Malaysians.
"When the PM brings up this issue to Donald Trump, we want the world peace organisations to be able to handle the problems of the Rohingya people who are being treated with cruelty by the Myanmar military junta," said Datuk Seri Zahid, as quoted by Bernama news agency.
At the Myanmar embassy in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, some 100 people consisting of Rohingya and Umno Youth supporters held placards denouncing the Myanmar government while chanting "Free Rohingya".
"If the Myanmar government fails to listen to our request, we will demand for the Myanmar embassy to be shut down and chased out of our country," Umno Youth council member Armand Azha told reporters.
Datuk Armand said Umno Youth and non-governmental organisations involved in Friday's protest are also demanding the end of bilateral relations between Malaysia and Myanmar if their request is not met.
According to estimates, over 100,000 Rohingya refugees reside in Malaysia, living as illegal migrants, with just 61,000 holding a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) card.
Earlier on Friday, Umno Youth's deputy chief Khairul Azwan Haron led a group to the United Nations office in Kuala Lumpur to hand a memorandum to urge the international body to set up an UN peacekeeping mission in Rakhine state.
Meanwhile, Malaysia's coast guard said it will not turn away boats carrying Rohingya refugees fleeing the violence.
The Malaysian Prime Minister's Office also announced that a humanitarian mission for the Rohingya will take place to provide immediate assistance to refugees crossing the Myanmar-Bangladesh border.
"The mission is ready to depart on Saturday to survey and assess the true condition at the refugee camps, the statement said, and later deliver relief goods."
Mr Najib in February sent a ship carrying tonnes of food and emergency supplies to the Rohingya in Myanmar and Bangladesh.