TUN Dr Mahathir Mohamad did not mince his words when he raised the Rohingya’s plight at a plenary session among Asean leaders on Tuesday night.
Before the other nine leaders, including Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi, Dr Mahathir gave a dressing down on the atrocities committed by the country’s military against the Rohingya.
Dr Mahathir yesterday confirmed he raised the matter, saying Asean urged Myanmar to rectify the situation.
“I did mention about the situation in Rakhine state. We urge efforts should be made to correct the wrongdoings,” he told Malaysian media on the sidelines of the Asean summit here.
Senior officials said the prime minister came out very strong as he spoke on the sufferings of the Rohingya.
“He was disappointed and told Suu Kyi that she has been detained before and should understand the plight of the Rohingya,” said a Malaysian official.
It is understood several other leaders spoke on the issue, too.
Dr Mahathir has publicly reprimanded Suu Kyi and said he has lost faith in her over the Rohingya issue.
An official said that when it was Suu Kyi’s turn to speak, she explained the efforts to repatriate the Rohingya from Bangladesh.
“As she spoke, she kept on looking at Dr Mahathir. It was as if she was talking to him.
“Suu Kyi kept on talking on the schedule to repatriate the Rohingya and getting humanitarian agencies to come and help,” said an official.
More than 900,000 Rohingya, an ethnic and religious minority in Myanmar, live in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar district, the vast majority in camps, according to Unicef.
About 700,000 of them arrived in the four months after deadly attacks by Rohingya insurgents on Myanmar security forces in August 2017 which led to military operations that the UN and rights groups said targeted civilians.
Myanmar has denied most of the allegations.
Aid groups and humanitarian agencies have warned about “dangerous” plans of repatriation where they alleged the Rohingya would face unimaginable atrocities at the hands of the military.
Dr Mahathir also spoke on sanctions on North Korea, saying sanctions on one country have implications on others.
Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen supported Dr Mahathir’s view as he felt other countries trading with North Korea might also be affected.
Dr Mahathir, in his speech at the Asean Business and Investment Summit here, said the United States should stop resorting to neo-colonialism tactics by oppressing countries through economic sanctions.
“Sometimes, even innocent countries have to pay the price because when there are sanctions we cannot trade with our normal partners,” he added.