Bangkok: Malaysia on Saturday said the perpetrators of violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya minority must “be brought to justice”, in sharp comments delivered at a normally tame regional summit.
Myanmar does not recognise the Rohingya as citizens, instead officially labelling them “Bengalis”, short-hand for illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.
A military crackdown in 2017 drove more than 740,000 Rohingya into Bangladesh, carrying accounts of rape, mass killings and the razing of villages.
UN investigators have called for Myanmar’s top generals to be tried for genocide.
But Myanmar’s army and de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi have defended the action as necessary to flush out Rohingya militants from Rakhine state.
In talks Saturday with Southeast Asian counterparts, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Bin Abdullah called for the “perpetrators of the Rohingya issue to be brought to justice”, his ministry said in Tweet.
He also said repatriation of the minority from the fetid, overcrowded refugee camps of Bangladesh “must include the citizenship of the Rohingya.”
Malaysia, a Muslim country which hosts a large Rohingya refugee population, is one of the few members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to speak up for the minority.
The 10-member bloc normally abides by a principle of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
ASEAN was heavily criticised by rights groups after a report it commissioned lauded Myanmar’s work on the repatriation issue.
Rakhine state, the western region home to the Rohingya, remains cut by violence.
Only a handful of the Muslim minority have returned under a discredited repatriation deal.
Myanmar has not offered citizenship to the mass of Rohingya in Bangladesh’s camps should they return, while the minority also want safety guarantees and restitution of seized lands and torched villages before agreeing to go back.