Myanmar suspends sending workers to Malaysia following Rohingya spat

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak (centre) at the rally in support of the Rohingyas in Kuala Lumpur December 4, 2016.  — File pic
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak (centre) at the rally in support of the Rohingyas in Kuala Lumpur December 4, 2016. — File pic

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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 7 — The Myanmar government has suspended sending workers to Malaysia following a diplomatic strain between the two countries over the plight of Rohingyas in the Rakhine state in Myanmar, according to reports.

According to Myanmar Times, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population released a statement yesterday announcing the suspension of workers to Malaysia, which was confirmed by the Myanmar Overseas Employment Agencies Federation (MOEAF).

MOEAF central executive committee member U Myat Thu reportedly said that Malaysian companies will face “difficulties” following the suspension.

The diplomatic ties between both countries have been strained over the past week when Malaysian government leaders openly criticised the treatment of the ethnic Rohingyas in Myanmar.

This is following a recent spate of violence which saw 90 people dead and thousands flee to neighbouring Bangladesh.

The Rohingya, seen by Myanmar as illegal immigrants, are allegedly being persecuted by the Buddhists in the state and also by the military.

Thousands of them were stranded at sea last year in a major refugee crisis after several Asean countries refused to take them. Malaysia eventually allowed some of them into the country.

Last Sunday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak participated in a rally that protested against the treatment of Rohingyas, which also demanded immediate action from the Myanmar government.

Myanmar had previously warned Malaysia not to interfere in its “internal affairs” according to the Asean charter.

There have also been calls by some Malaysian politicians to review Myanmar’s Asean membership in light of recent events.

Myanmar’s highest ranking officials met with Malaysia Chief of Defence Forces General Tan Sri Zulkifeli Mohd Zin on Tuesday to smoothen diplomatic ties and to assure Malaysia that the Rohingya community’s rights were not being violated.

About 4,000 Myanmar workers are sent legally to Malaysia every month, and about 50,000 of them sent to Malaysia a year.

The number of illegal workers from Myanmar is believed to be much higher.

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