KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — Malaysia has already accepted too many Rohingya refugees and other nations must do their part to address the crisis, former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.
On his blog, Dr Mahathir also called for a rejection of trade with Myanmar over its cruelty towards its Rohingya community.
“We should rightfully condemn Myanmar and Aung San Suu Kyi over their cruelty, and act by rejecting trade with them,” he wrote.
However, the Langkawi MP decried the recent move by the Royal Malaysian Navy to repel a boat ferrying about 200 Rohingya refugees as inhumane.
“Truthfully, we have given too much asylum to refugees. They should go to other nations, and other nations too must open their doors.
“However, turning away a boat filled with 400 refugees till they were adrift at sea for two months, is an inhumane act,” Dr Mahathir wrote.
He added that the refugees should be given food and fuel so they can continue travelling to other countries or return to Myanmar.
On April 18, the Human Rights Watch reported that the RMN turned back a boat carrying about 200 Rohingya women, men and children to which it reportedly provided food two days prior.
Malaysia’s representative to the Asean Intergovernmental Commission of Human Rights Eric Paulsen criticised Malaysia and Thailand for refusing entry to the boat as reports emerged that some onboard died at sea.
Dr Mahathir also spoke about the hatred of the Malays towards the Rohingya though they were initially sympathetic.
“Last time, they hated the refugees from Vietnam. In the beginning, the Malays pitied the Rohingyas and the Rohingyas chose to come to Malaysia because of our sympathy.
“But when the numbers are just too many, and there are some things which these refugees did which hurt the feelings of the Malays, then the sympathy turned into hate,” Dr Mahathir claimed.
He said that Malaysia must also ask the United Nations to take action against Myanmar and have “Myanmar’s cruelty exposed to the world.”
“Let’s not hate the Rohingyas who are victims of tyranny. The Islamic nations and the OIC must also act to stop Myanmar’s tyranny,” Dr Mahathir added, referring to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
The European Rohingya Council Ambassador to Malaysia Tengku Emma Zuriana Tengku Azmi had on April 22 called on governments in the region to allow the Rohingya refugees immediate safe disembarkation.
She said Asean members must urgently agree to emergency measures to prevent another humanitarian crisis while accommodating governments’ existing Covid-19 restrictions at their borders.
However, Umno deputy president Datuk Seri Mohamad Hasan claimed Malaysia has “far exceeded” its capacity to host refugees as some parts of Malaysian cities have become “too concentrated with refugees” and resources to take care of their welfare have been depleted.
The issue also turned into a heated debate in Malaysia’s social media circle, including attacks against the Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia (MERHOM) president Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani and the community.
An online petition was also launched to urge the government to ignore tens of thousands of Rohingya refugees affected by the movement control order (MCO).