Malaysia and crisis of Rohingya Muslim minority

Tehran, Feb 13, IRNA - As a Muslim country situated in the Southeast Asia, Malaysia has, for years, been hosting thousands of Rohingya Muslims who have sought refuge in the country from the suffering and suppression back home in Myanmar.

The escalation of suppression of this Muslim minority in Rakhine State since the early days of the new Christian year has been at the center of attention for the Malaysia foreign ministry as well as its media and press.

Based on a report by the United Nations' Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR), violence which broke out last October in Myanmar, has so far claimed lives of hundreds and left 69 thousands of Myanmar Muslims homeless. A major portion of those who have lost homes are now living in Bangladesh.

So far, The UNHCR and the Human Rights Watchdog, as two prominent international organizations, have condemned the systematic rapes, massacres and extensive violence against the Muslim minority in Myanmar in their separate statements. They say all these crimes were committed by Myanmar's military and security forces. They have also called for international independent investigations into the crimes.

The two international bodies have further demanded accountability on the part of the Myanmar government and its leader San Suu Kyi who happens to be a Nobel peace prize winner herself.

Certainly, the crisis gained an international momentum after tens of world Nobel peace prize winners wrote to the United Nations Security Council to express their disappointment with the performance of the present Myanmar leader. In the letter, they demanded an immediate halt to the ongoing ethnic cleansing in Rakhine state and the crimes against humanity being committed there.

In the regional scope as well, a number of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states started pressing Myanmar government to settle the crisis. The Malaysian government was one of these governments which stood in defense of the Muslim Rohingya victims, terming the 'peace prize winner' leader of Myanmar as a partner in the crimes. It also accused Myanmar government of committing 'genocide'.

The Malaysian government represented by Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak officially reacted to all those bitter incidents befalling the Rohingya Muslims by calling on the Myanmar government to stop violence against Muslims. In the diplomatic arena, too, the Malaysian government urged the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to hold an extraordinary session to examine the situation in Myanmar.

Of course, this was not the first initiative by Malaysia to support Rohingya Muslims. Prior to the OIC meeting, Kuala Lumpur had worked on a program to send humanitarian aid collected by non-governmental organizations to Myanmar which was met with rejection Rakhine province officials who denied necessary entry licenses to the convoy.

Furthermore, during his numerous interviews with media and press, the Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman outlined the crimes against the minority Muslims in Myanmar including unauthorized arrests of Rohingya Muslims, on the spot executions of ordinary people including children, sexual harassment, burning of the villages, demolishing of houses and worship places belonging to the Muslim minority by Myanmar troops and military.
Upon the Malaysian government's initiative, the OIC extraordinary foreign ministerial meeting convened in Kuala Lumpur Jan. 19, 2017 to review the situation of Rohingya Muslims. The Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif was also present in the meeting. The meeting adopted three official documents namely the final statement, a resolution and also the Kuala Lumpur communiqué, demanding an end to the crimes against Muslims in Myanmar.
In these documents, the OIC foreign ministers expressed their grave concern toward escalating violence in the north of Rakhine state which has taken huge toll from among defenseless and homeless Muslim minority. They also urged the Myanmar government to take substantial measures to restore calm and peace to the crisis-stricken regions.

The documents further demanded the Myanmar government to uproot the evil causes of all conflicts and observe the civilian rights of the Rohingya Muslims who are suffering from plights due to lack of access to their basic rights as Myanmar citizens.

The OIC foreign ministers also called on the Myanmar government to take serious measures towards return home of Myanmar refugee-seekers who are either living in camps inside Myanmar or have left for foreign countries to their homes.

Following the OIC meeting, a few days later on Feb 4, the Malaysian media carried news stories about the shipping of Malaysia's first humanitarian aid consignment to Rohingya Muslims who were living in Myanmar and Bangladesh.

However, the regional media later on reported that the ships which were not allowed into Rakhine province had to deck in Yangon and then left for a port in Bangladesh to deliver their humanitarian cargo to the Rohingya Muslims.
Prime Minister Razak had already stressed that Malaysia's humanitarian aid containing hundred tons of foodstuff and other necessary items will be shipped to Myanmar.

The ships were expected to arrive in Yangon Feb. 9, to unload 500 tons of its cargo (out of total 2,200 tons) and then continue voyage to a Bangladesh port in three days to deliver the rest of its cargo destined for Rakhine's Muslims.

Myanmar government that seeks equal distribution of humanitarian aid between Muslims and Buddhists refused to let the Malaysian ship into Sittwe port which is situated at the center of Rakhine province. Myanmar accuses Malaysia of politically manipulating the Rohingya Muslims by exaggerating their plight.

Malaysia dismisses such claims, stressing that the continuation of the Rohingya crisis may lead to contamination of the whole region by such anti-human practices. It cites the case of wave of illegal immigration across the region in past year which caused troubles for all.

The Malaysian government reasons that such critical situation could potentially endanger security in Southeast Asia and open the gate for terrorists to infiltrate into the who region.

Analysts believe that the efforts by the Malaysian government to bring the crisis to an end will be of positive consequences not just for the suppressed Rohingya Muslim minority but the whole region by preventing similar crises which might arise from all sorts of social, security and economic inconveniences.

Written and Translated by: Maryam Shafiei