KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 3 — With 56,000 Rohingya in Malaysia, the government cannot close an eye to the “crisis” facing the ethnic Muslims in Myanmar, Wisma Putra said today.
In a strongly-worded statement, the Foreign Ministry said the high number of Rohingya refugees here as well as the hundreds of thousands in other countries was no longer an internal issue for Myanmar but an international issue, and closer to home a security matter for Malaysia.
“As a neighbour and a responsible member of the international community, it is Malaysia’s obligation to ensure that its Asean colleague takes proactive steps to prevent the matter from further deteriorating,” the ministry said, in response to remarks by U Zaw Htay, the deputy director-general of Myanmar’s President’s Office as published in The Myanmar Times yesterday.
According to the report, the Myanmar official told Malaysia to respect the Asean principle of non-interference in the sovereign affairs of member states, after news reports claimed Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will join in a solidarity gathering tomorrow to protest against Myanmar’s military operations in the Rakhine state, where the Rohingya are from.
“According to Asean principles, a member country does not interfere in other member countries’ internal affairs. We have always followed and respected this principle. We hope that the Malaysian government will continue to follow it,” U Zaw Htay told The Myanmar Times.
He reportedly added that the Malaysian gathering was a calculated political decision to win local support and had little to do with Myanmar.
Wisma Putra said the spillover effect of the Rohingya humanitarian crisis would affect the safety, security and standing of Malaysia.
“It is in this context that Malaysia has allowed the Solidarity March to take place,” it said.
It noted that only one ethnicity, the Rohingya, was being driven out from their home state, stating that such an action “is by definition ethnic cleansing”.
“This practice must stop, and must be stopped immediately in order to bring back security and stability to the South-east Asian region,” Wisma Putra said.
The ministry also said Myanmar’s Asean neighbours were forced to bear the brunt of taking in its boat people last year, and added that Malaysia has repeatedly offered to help Myanmar find “a just and durable” solution to the Rohingya issue.
“This in keeping with Malaysia’s position that this is not a religious issue but an immediate humanitarian concern,” it said.
Hundreds of Malaysians protested against Myanmar’s alleged persecution of its Rohingya people outside its embassy here last week.
The government has also taken a stand following news reports that 69 people were killed and hundreds more taken into custody from Muslim-majority towns since the Myanmar military started operations to nab suspects linked to attacks on border-guard posts on October 9.
The Myanmar government has repeatedly denied allegations of abuse but The Myanmar Times reported that journalists and external observers have been barred from accessing the military operation zones to independently verify information.
The Myanmar report cited UN estimates that 30,000 people in the northern Rakhine state have been displaced by the violence.