World Bulletin / News Desk
Thousands of people gathered in Malaysia’s capital Sunday for a rally led by Prime Minister Najib Razak to protest violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s troubled Rakhine State, where recent violence has left dozens dead and tens of thousands displaced.
Among those present at the rally -- organized by the government -- were Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Malaysian Islamic Party President Abdul Hadi Awang and some federal ministers.
An official leaflet distributed to rally participants stated that Malaysia “condemns the attack on Rohingya as an assault on Islam”, and that the Myanmar government should “immediately stop the military violence in Rakhine” -- home to around 1.2 million Rohingya.
Speaking at the rally, Razak said, "it is a proud day for all Muslims in the country that we all stood up for a humanitarian cause which affected our brothers and sisters in Myanmar."
Rohingya advocacy groups claim around 400 Rohingya have been killed in military operations in northern Rakhine since the Oct. 9 deaths of nine Myanmar border police officials, while Myanmar says just 91 people -- 17 soldiers and 74 alleged "attackers" -- have been killed.
Humanitarian outfits have called for an independent probe into the initial attacks, the ongoing operations and reported rapes and rights abuses in Rakhine, as with the area placed under military lockdown, rights groups and international reporters have been unable to enter.
Since last month, Malaysia has criticized Myanmar’s government and military over ongoing violence in Rakhine -- which some officials have called and "ethnic cleansing" -- canceling two football matches scheduled to take place in Myanmar this month and requesting an immediate appointment with Myanmar State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi.
On Thursday, the deputy director general of the Myanmar President’s Office responded by saying that the principles of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) -- in which both countries are member states -- prohibited members from interfering in each other’s internal affairs.
“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,” Zaw Htay told the Myanmar Times.
On Sunday, Razak told rally participants -- including thousands of Rohingya, many of them refugees -- that the gathering at Titiwangsa Stadium was aimed at telling Suu Kyi -- a Nobel Peace laureate -- "that enough is enough".
"I asked my foreign minister to immediately meet her to find a resolution to the issue but she rejected it immediately,” he said. “She told my minister that she was willing to meet on Malaysia and Myanmar bilateral issues but not on Rohingya. This is the mentality class of a Nobel Peace Prize winner."
Razak accused Myanmar’s government of having "warned" him about organizing the rally, but stressed that the Malaysian government is “not afraid of such diplomatic pressures”.
"The Myanmar government should adhere to the ASEAN charter which is in place, including the freedom of human rights. They cannot pretend to be blind and do anything they want in the name of democracy," he said.
Razak underlined that Malaysia will hold more rallies to push Myanmar’s government toward restoring peace in Rakhine, and said he had urged the president of Indonesia -- the world’s most populous Muslim country -- to organize similar events.
On Saturday, Foreign Minister Anifah Aman insisted that the Rohingya crisis was “no longer” an internal affair of Myanmar but an international matter given the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who had fled to Malaysia and other neighboring countries.
According to the last census in Malaysia, there were some 135,000 Rohingya in the country in 2014.Last Mod: 04 Aralık 2016, 10:25