Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak challenged Myanmar’s State Counselor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi and her government Sunday during a rally in Kuala Lumpur in support of ethnic Rohingya.
Najib led the rally attended by about 8,000 in defiance of a statement by U. Zaw Htay, the deputy director general of Myanmar president’s office on Friday. Referring to Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) principles, Htay said a member country does not interfere in other member countries’ internal affairs.
“We want to tell Aung San Suu Kyi, enough is enough!” Najib told attendees. “Two days ago, the Myanmar government in a statement said if I were to attend today’s rally, it shows that I’m meddling with their internal affairs."
“They warned me! But I don’t care, because I am standing here not as Najib Razak but I am here under the name of the Ummah (Muslim community) and as a Malaysian citizen as a whole,” Najib told the crowd.
The rally occurred a day after Malaysia accused the Myanmar government of ethnic cleansing and former United Nations Secretary Gen. Kofi Annan visited a village in Myanmar’s Rakhine State where thousands of Rohingyas have fled their homes.
On Thursday, Malaysia’s national football team announced it had cancelled two under-22 friendlies against Myanmar in protest of the crackdown against Rohingyas, Agence France-Presse reported.
Myanmar’s army has conducted security sweeps of the northern part of Rakhine State following deadly attacks on border guard posts in October, which they have blamed on Rohingya militants.
Soldiers have cracked down on civilians and have been accused of committing extrajudicial killings, rape, and arson in Rohingya communities. The military has denied committing any atrocities and has blamed the arson on the Rohingya.
Malaysia’s foreign ministry on Saturday said that the number of Rohingyas who are suffering, pointing to the 56,000 refugees in Malaysia and thousands in neighboring countries, makes the issue no longer an internal matter.
“The fact that only one particular ethnicity is being driven out is by definition ethnic cleansing,” it said in a statement.
Responding to Myanmar’s comment on the ASEAN charter, Najib said it calls on members to protect human rights.
“They’ve only chosen to read one portion and ignore the rest. Are they blind?” Najib told the crowd that included opposition Pan-Malaysian Islamic (PAS) Party President Abdul Hadi Awang.
Najib also urged the U.N. and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation to take more serious roles in the Rohingya crisis, asking Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, among others, for support.
“Today I call upon every leader in this world to step up and join hands to find solutions and help the Rohingya escape their cruel fate,” he said.
Najib said Aung Sang Suu Kyi was reluctant to meet Malaysian representatives.
“I asked Foreign Minister Anifah Aman to meet his counterpart, Aung Sang Suu Kyi, but she replied, ‘I’m not willing to meet you if you’re going to talk about the Rohingya issue,’” he said.
“If that’s the case then what is the point of saying ASEAN is a community, what is the point of a Nobel Peace Prize?” Najib told the rally where many carried signs with messages “Stop the killings’ and “Help the Rohingyas.”
Among those in attendance were Anifah, Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and PAS Youth Chief Nik Abduh Nik Aziz, along with Rohingyas living in Malaysia who spoke out against Myanmar.
“We are powerless, and we don’t know where to get help. I hope that the Malaysian government can help our remaining brothers back at Myanmar,” said Ziyar Akmal, 23, who has been working in Malaysia for two years.
“I no longer have anything in this world. I don’t have a place to call home. They decapitated one of my siblings and they burned our house,” Ziyar told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.
Meanwhile, Nizamullah, 20, told BenarNews that Myanmar leaders are cowards, and cruel. “I’m lucky to have left the country. Those left behind are living in hell.”
“Back in Myanmar, we Rohingya don’t have the right to do anything. They treated us very bad, in a way you can’t imagine. I can only pray to God to help ease our brothers' suffering back home,” he said.
Reported by A. Ariffin for BenarNews. an RFA-affiliated online news service.