The anger against the Rohingya has roots

A boat with some 202 Rohingya people onboard arrived in Langkawi. -filepic

HE calls himself “Long Tiger” and has carved himself out a reputation as the most infamous Rohingya on social media, but a series of critical Facebook posts against Malaysians, particularly Malay-Muslims, has landed him in trouble.

There was an uproar against the 31-year-old man over his rants. His identity has been revealed, and with his list of criminal offences, it is perhaps only fitting that seeking fame on social media led to his real-life infamy being exposed.

Last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) resident was arrested by police at his home in Muar.

Johor police chief Comm Datuk Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay said the man, now under police remand, was arrested for allegedly slandering a police officer in a video.

In the past, Long Tiger had allegedly challenged Melaka state executive councillor Datuk Norhizam Hassan Baktee to a fight in an eight-minute video uploaded on YouTube.

Speaking in fluent Bahasa Malaysia, and often wearing a songkok, he had passed off as a Malaysian until last week when it was found he was actually a non-citizen and in fact a Rohingya refugee.

Worse, Comm Ayob said the man has a criminal record involving three offences.

"In 2012, he was charged under Sections 363 and 376 of the Penal Code for kidnapping and rape, ” he said.

"In 2009, he was convicted under Section 506 of the Penal Code for criminal intimidation," Comm Ayob said.

Another video, said to be uploaded by Rohingya refugees who claim to be now staying in the United States, saw these Bahasa Malaysia speaking teenagers using profanity and threatening Malaysians, especially Malays.

Brandishing guns at what looked like a shooting range, they dared Malays to go after them, saying, “This is America.”

Bukit Aman CID director Comm Datuk Huzir Mohamed said the live sessions used an account belonging to one Villan Vicky, a Rohingya who stayed in Malaysia previously but was now residing in the United States.

“The men in the live sessions used foul words to insult Malaysians and made derogatory comments on sexual acts. They even claimed the Malays had provoked them first.

“At the end of the video, the men claimed their anger was not directed at Malays but was meant for Rohingya NGO leader Zafar Ahmad.

“They felt that Zafar was trying very hard to become a Malay. They claimed that Zafar did not represent the voice of the Rohingya in Malaysia, ” said Comm Huzir.

Zafar Ahmed Abdul Ghani, a self-proclaimed leader of the Rohingya who runs an organisation named Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia (Merhrom), is also under heavy fire from Malaysians after allegedly demanding citizenship and equal rights for the Rohingya refugees, although he has denied making such statements.

But the fact is that he is not an elected representative, president or ambassador of the Rohingya in Malaysia, and Merhrom is not even a registered body.

This series of social media controversies, the personalities involved and rebuttals by Malay social influencers, as well as the outrage in the Malay community, have eluded the attention of many media outlets.

The government’s decision to turn back a boat carrying 200 Rohingya refugees who had landed in Langkawi last month has been widely reported, and so has the criticism from human rights groups in Malaysia and overseas, but the tone of the Malay anger has been left out, possibly because the mainstream media, especially the non-Malay-language press, has not kept its finger on the pulse of the Malay-Muslim community.

There has been broad reference to how the community’s earlier sympathy for the Rohingya because of Muslim solidarity has sharply turned, with many attributing this to concerns over the declining economy and the Covid-19 pandemic, but little has been reported of the sparks that have already been flying.

Bukit Aman has said that investigation papers have been opened into various videos posted online involving the Rohingya community, with 19 police reports received from April 25-28.

Comm Huzir said, “We’re aware of issues involving the Rohingya being discussed on social media during the movement control order (MCO) period.

“This involves tensions between Malaysians and the Rohingya community, but we will get to the bottom of it”.

The issue has become so emotive that a police corporal was arrested on Wednesday (April 29) for allegedly posting on social media a video of Long Tiger in handcuffs and in police custody.

Comm Ayob said the 27-year-old policeman is being investigated under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.

"The policeman had allegedly taken a video of a Rohingya man at the Muar police department," he said.

If in the past refugees in Malaysians always kept a low profile to avoid harassment and arrest, social media has given the younger ones a platform to voice their grievances – however, one or two recalcitrants have crossed the line by mocking their hosts.

Worse, if Long Tiger isn’t a Malaysian citizen and is merely a refugee, how could he have been staying here long enough to have such a notorious criminal record?

There is no doubt that the Rohingya are victims of persecution and have become stateless people. Yes, they deserve a humanitarian approach, but this doesn’t mean we have to accept every boatload of refugees, regardless their nationalities, that come to our shores.

Here’s a recap: As at end-February 2020, there are some 178,990 refugees and asylum seekers registered with the UNHCR in Malaysia. Some 154,080 are from Myanmar, comprising 101,010 Rohingya, 22,810 Chin, and 30,250 others.

According to the UNHCR website, there are about 24,900 refugees and asylum seekers from other countries, including 6,660 Pakistanis, 3,680 Yemenis, 3,290 Somalis, 3,290 Syrians, 2,590 Afghans, 1,830 Sri Lankans, 1,270 Iraqis, 790 Palestinians, and the remainder coming from miscellaneous other countries.

The number of officially registered foreign workers are estimated at under two million in 2019, while other reports claim that unofficial estimates showed up to six million of them, or 18.6% of the country's 32.6 million population.

Malaysians need some sympathy too, because we are not in the best position, or in the mood, to play host.

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