Putrajaya: Rohingya issue has become an international matter

  • Nation
  • Saturday, 03 Dec 2016

Zaw Htay, speaker of president office talks during a press conference on situation in northern Rakhine State, at president house in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, 16 November 2016. - EPA

PUTRAJAYA: Malaysia is obligated to ensure that Myanmar takes proactive steps to prevent the Rohingya issue from further deteriorating. Wisma Putra said it was in this context that Malaysia allowed the Solidarity March to take place this Sunday.

It said in a statement the practice of ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas must stop immediately in order to bring back security and stability to the Southeast Asian region.

The statement was to rebut comments made by U Zaw Htay, deputy director of The President's Office.

Here is the statement in full:


The Ministry of Foreign Affairs views with concern the humanitarian crisis in Rohingya, the spillover effect of which will affect the safety, security and standing of Malaysia, as Myanmar's ASEAN neighbour. It is in this context that Malaysia has allowed the Solidarity March to take place. 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. Malaysia is well aware of the principles upon which ASEAN was built, being a founding member of the regional organisation.

In 2008, all 10 member states of ASEAN adopted the ASEAN Charter, which binds the members to the international principles of the protection and promotion of human rights. Furthermore, all member states of ASEAN agreed to respond effectively, in accordance with the principle of comprehensive security, to threats, which the Rohingya issue poses to Malaysia's own security. The high number of Rohingya people in Malaysia (approximately 56,000) under the UNHCR banner, coupled with the hundreds of thousands in other neighbouring countries, makes this matter no longer an internal matter but an international matter. The fact that only one particular ethnicity is being driven out is by definition ethnic cleansing.

This practice must stop, and must be stopped immediately in order to bring back security and stability to the Southeast Asian region. Malaysia need not remind U Zaw Htay of the 2015 boat people crisis which eventually became a regional issue with Myanmar's neighbours taking the brunt of the burden. It is with this in mind that Malaysia has repeatedly offered its assistance to the Myanmar government in finding a solution for a just and durable immediate solution to the persecution of the Rohingya in Northern Rakhine.

This in keeping with Malaysia's position that this is not a religious issue but an immediate humanitarian concern.


The Myanmar Times had reported U Zaw as saying Myanmar warned Malaysia to respect the principle of non-interference after Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak reportedly agreed to attend a protest condemning the ongoing military operations in Rakhine State.

Putrajaya told AFP that Najib would be taking part in the protest, which has yet to have a confirmed location.

In response, U Zaw said that Malaysia should respect sovereign affairs.

“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 told The Myanmar Times.

He added that the protest appeared to be a calculated political decision to win the support of the Malaysian public and had little to do with Myanmar.

“We will call on the Malaysian ambassador regarding the protest and to ask if the Malaysian prime minister is participating. If so, we will monitor the event,” said U Zaw.

The report said the announcement by Najib’s office follows a series of recent moves by Malaysia to dial up the rhetoric in response to violence in the Rakhine State, where the Tatmadaw has been conducting a crackdown since Oct 9.

On Nov 25, the Malaysian cabinet discussed Rakhine State and issued a strongly worded statement condemning the escalation of violence “resulting in the loss of innocent lives and displacement of people”.

“Malaysia also calls on the government of Myanmar to take all the necessary actions to address the alleged ethnic cleansing in northern Rakhine State,” the statement issued by the Foreign Ministry said.

Last week, Malaysia summoned the Myanmar ambassador in Kuala Lumpur while around 500 people staged a protest outside Myanmar’s embassy.

Malaysia also abruptly pulled out of two scheduled football matches against Myanmar this week.

The last-minute cancellation was announced on Nov 30 and cited the handling of the Rakhine State crisis as the reason Malaysia would not compete in the Dec 9 and 12 matches.

According to the Tatmadaw’s True News and Information Team, 69 people have been killed and hundreds of suspects have been rounded up in the Muslim-majority townships of Buthidaung and Maungdaw since the military began sweeps to find suspects connected to a spate of lethal attacks on border-guard posts on Oct 9.

The Myanmar government has repeatedly denied allegations of abuse and has said the situation on the ground is being carried out within the parameters of the rule of law.

Journalists and outside observers have been restricted from accessing the military operation zones, making it impossible to independently verify information.

According to the UN refugee agency, as many as 10,000 Muslim residents of Rakhine State who self-identify as Rohingya have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh over the past few weeks.

The UN estimates that 30,000 people in northern Rakhine State have been displaced by the violence.

U Zaw said that amid the public denunciations and protests in Malaysia, the government is concerned for the safety of Myanmar citizens living in the country.

He advised them to keep in contact with the Myanmar embassy in Kuala Lumpur.

“Myanmar citizens should be careful and they should not go outside without companions,” he said.

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