Kuala Lumpur: Thousands of Malaysians and Myanmarese ethnic Rohingya Muslims held a protest here on Sunday, condemning the Myanmar government’s violence against the minority group in the country’s western Rakhine state, media reported.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, his deputy Zahid Hamidi and opposition Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) President Abdul Hadi Awang attended the demonstration following a statement by the Malaysian Foreign Ministry on Saturday that called Myanmar’s policy on its Muslim Rohingya minority “ethnic cleansing”, Efe news reported.
“The fact that only one particular ethnicity is being driven out is by definition ethnic cleansing,” the ministry said.
“This practice must stop, and must be stopped immediately in order to bring back security and stability to the Southeast Asian region.”
The ministry noted that hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas had fled to neighbouring countries in recent years, including 56,000 to Malaysia, making “this matter no longer an internal matter but an international matter”.
In early October, the Myanmar military launched an operation against Rohingyas following armed attacks on police border posts, attributed to members of the minority.
At least 30,000 civilians have been displaced due to the violence in the region, which has been closed to humanitarian aid organisations, observers and independent media by the army, who is accused of carrying out killings, rapes, looting and burning more than 1,000 houses in Rohingya villages.
The Myanmar government on December 2 announced that it was launching a commission to investigate the situation, following a report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights that said there was increasing violence against the ethnic minority, and that many of the crimes committed constituted serious human rights violations.
Najib on Sunday said he was defying a message from the Myanmar government warning him that if he attended the rally he would be interfering in their internal affairs, and called on de facto Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi to end the violence.
Rakhine is home to more than a million Rohingyas, a community not recognised as citizens in the country and shunned as Bangladeshi immigrants.
Around 120,000 of them have lived severely restrictive lives in 67 camps since the outbreak of sectarian violence in 2012 that left at least 160 dead.