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The Speech of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at The Oslo Conference to End Myanmar’s Systematic Persecution of Rohingyas

May 26, 2015
Oslo Norway

I feel much saddened by the events taking place in Myanmar today. I was very instrumental in getting Myanmar to become a member of the ASEAN, the regional grouping of Southeast Asian countries. Myanmar, geographically, is definitely a part of Southeast Asia, and its exclusion would be contrary to the idea of South East Asian unity. But now, we find that Myanmar is not treating its own people the way we treat Myanmar.

We did not want Myanmar to be excluded but Myanmar today is taking action to expel the Rohingyas, the Muslim part of this population who have been there for the past 800 years or so. They have always been regarded as citizens of Burma before, and since Myanmar is a continuation of Burma it should accept these people as its citizens. 

Now Malaysia also has a lot of people from other countries who have settled here in the last 200 years or so. We decided that they have a right to be citizens of Malaysia, to be given political rights, and to be allowed to train and carry out business in Malaysia. We regard them as our citizens.

Unlike Malaysia, we find that Myanmar does not even want to recognize the Rohingyas who have been there all this while as its citizens. This is grossly unjust on the part of the government of Myanmar. I had expected that those who benefited from our struggle to get Myanmar to release (for example Aung San Suu Kyi) that they would realize that oppression by the government is something that is intolerable; and yet few people from Myanmar have risen to the occasion to defend the rights of the Rohingyas who after all are citizens of Myanmar.

I hope that the international community would focus its attention on the problem of the Rohingyas who are Muslims, but they are citizens of this Buddhist dominated country. They should live and be allowed to live in Myanmar without oppression. There should be tolerance of peoples of other religions.

Again I would like to mention that in Malaysia, although the majority of the people are Muslims, we have treated people with other faiths with consideration and we have given them rights to become citizens of Malaysia and to benefit from the laws of this country. I hope that the international community would focus on the problem of the Rohingyas who today are being forced to flee in ships to other countries and many of them drown in the sea because they were not able to get good ships to carry them to other countries.

This is a human tragedy and I do hope that the international community would help these unfortunate people of Myanmar who have been discriminated against in a way that is not becoming of a country that aspires to become a democratic country. I thank you.

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Rohingya Exodus