OIC to Press Myanmar Over Rohingya Crisis at Malaysia Meeting: Envoy

Kuala Lumpur will host a meeting of foreign ministers of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Thursday.

Flags of Organization of Islamic Cooperation member-states fly in front of the Abraj al-Bait Towers in the holy city of Mecca, Nov. 17, 2016.

Myanmar should allow international investigators to explore whether crimes amounting to genocide have targeted Rohingya Muslims in that country, according to a former Malaysian foreign minister who is special envoy to Myanmar for the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Ahead of an extraordinary meeting of the OIC’s Council of Foreign Ministers in Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, which will focus on a humanitarian crisis surrounding the Rohingya community in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, special envoy Syed Hamid Albar outlined some steps that the OIC should take in pressing Naypyidaw to solve the issue.

The Muslim world’s largest inter-governmental body should, for one, discuss opening an office in Myanmar for the OIC or another international organization “to enable various investigations to be carried out to determine whether crimes involving genocide had occurred in Myanmar,” Syed Hamid told BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.

The OIC should also ensure that the stateless Rohingya minority “is granted citizenship by Myanmar because, historically, that ethnic group originated from the Arakan region,” the Malaysian diplomat said, referring to Rakhine by another name.

Myanmar, he added, should not see such steps as an act of hostility, but as an attempt to resolve international conflicts through diplomacy.

Syed Hamid expects all 57 OIC members to attend Thursday’s meeting.

The meeting will also look into other basic problems affecting Rohingya, such as a lack of food and medical supplies. The ministers are expected to press Myanmar to halt military operation in Rakhine and to take immediate action to protect the ethnic group, he said.

“I believe the OIC will take action to push Myanmar to take steps under the UN humanitarian charter to protect all minority groups, not only Muslims but also Christians in the country and make sure humanitarian aid reaches them,” he said.

The meeting will be hosted by Malaysia, whose prime minister, Najib Razak, angered Myanmar recently by describing a military crackdown by Myanmar in Rakhine state as “genocide.”

Rohingya have accused Myanmar security forces of arbitrary arrests, torture, rape and arson during the security operation, though both the government and army have denied the charges.

Previous discussions

The meeting on Thursday follows emergency meetings of OIC officials in Geneva and Brussels in late December, according to a statement from OIC.

Participants at those meetings discussed the Rohingya crisis amid reports that members of minority population were killed and their houses burned down during a military crackdown following the killings of a group of Myanmar border guards in Maungdaw township on Oct. 9.

Since that attack, nearly 90 people have been killed in ongoing violence and as many as 65,000 Rohingya have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, according to U.N. figures.

Faisal Islam Muhammad Kassim, president of Rohingya Society Malaysia (RSM), supports the OIC’s diplomatic initiative.

“I really hope OIC will fight for the plight of ethnic Rohingya and will put pressure on the government of Myanmar,” he told BenarNews.

The Myanmar embassy in Kuala Lumpur said it would not comment on the upcoming meeting.

Reported by Hata Wahari and Anis Natasha for BenarNews, an RFA-affiliated online news service.