New Straits Times

Sept 22, 2017


The world is beginning to make the right noises against recalcitrant Myanmar. World leaders are starting to call a spade a spade. For some time now, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has been calling the persecution of the Rohingya by Myanmar a genocide. France’s President Emmanuel Macron is the latest to do so. In championing the cause of the Rohingya, Najib has travelled the globe to address world leaders on the need for action against Myanmar. In his most recent trip to the United States, Najib placed the plight of the Rohingya as an important discussion point with US President Donald Trump when the latter invited him to America. While there, Najib asked Trump to intervene.

Malaysia again has rebuked Myanmar, this time at an ASEAN meeting in the Philippines. Addressing the second ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Radicalization and Violent Extremism yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told the Myanmar delegation: “If you are really a democratic country as you say you are, then you should not stand in the way of humanitarian aid.” These are very strong words. Malaysia seldom expresses such disgust. But the disgust is a right one.

It is heartening for Malaysia to learn that Trump on Wednesday called on the United Nations Security Council to take “strong and swift action” to bring the Rohingya crisis to an end. At the Security Council meeting, US Vice-President Mike Pence, who also met Najib in Washington, accused the Myanmar military of responding to militant attacks on government outposts “with terrible savagery, burning villages, driving the Rohingya from their homes”. These are strong words, too, from Malaysia’s friend of 60 years.

Malaysia is thankful that after years of championing the plight of the Rohingya, whom the UN calls the world’s most persecuted people, the discerning world is beginning to listen and lend a helping hand to put an end to the humanitarian crisis. Malaysia has continued to say that the violence is not only an annihilation of an ethnic community, but a threat to the region and beyond as well. Extremism breeds extremism. Malaysia’s call for Myanmar to stop persecuting its people is part of the country’s goal of promoting moderation in the world.

The military junta has been ferociously hunting down the Rohingya, be they babies, children, women or the elderly. There seems to be no compassion left in the country led by de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi. She has been dithering and deflecting charges of ethnic cleansing while almost half the population of Rohingya have fled amidst violent persecution by the regime that the UN has called “a textbook example of genocide”.

Myanmar must be compelled by the world community to adopt immediate and long-term measures to end the plight of the Rohingya. Firstly, the regime must stop the violence and allow international aid to reach the people. As a long-term measure, Myanmar must take the Rohingya back, and provide the rights of citizens. Failing which, the UN Security Council must adopt measures provided for in the UN Charter to end one of the world’s worst tragedies against mankind.

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