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Malaysia mulls action against Burma for blocking UN probe on Rohingya abuses

Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said the government will consider taking action against Burma. Pic: Shutterstock

July 3, 2017

MALAYSIA says it will look into taking action against Burma (Myanmar) over the latter’s refusal to allow investigators from the United Nations to investigate alleged abuse of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority group.

The Star quoted Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as saying the government will seek consultation with its foreign ministry on options for diplomatic action against Burma, which is part of the Asean regional intergovernmental organisation.

“I will discuss with Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman. We will look into the latest report of the ongoings in Myanmar (Burma),” he told reporters on Sunday.

Late last week, the Burmese government refused entry to the UN team planning to conduct a fact-finding mission in Rakhine state, home to the majority of the country’s estimated one million stateless Rohingya.

Kyaw Zeya, permanent secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the capital, Naypyitaw, on Friday said the government had “no reason” to allow the investigators to come. He explained that Burma would not issue visas to the UN mission’s appointees or staff.

“Our missions worldwide are advised accordingly,” he said.

In October, the Burmese government launched a crackdown in the restive region after militants attacked a security outpost in a incident that killed nine police officers. Since then, the UN and human rights watchdogs have seen a spike in the number of allegations of killings, rape, and torture by Burmese security forces against the Rohingya.

Some 75,000 Rohingya have fled northwestern Rakhine state to Bangladesh following the crackdown which had left at least 100 people dead.

Ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslims have lived separately in Rakhine State since clashes in 2012. The government has refused to recognise the Rohingya as citizens, insisting they are illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh.

Violence in Rakhine State has become the biggest challenge facing Suu Kyi’s government and has sparked international criticism that the Nobel Peace Prize winner has done too little to help the Muslim minority.

The treatment of Rohingya in Burma has also strained ties with its Asean counterparts, especially Muslim majority Malaysia and Indonesia.

Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta have been vocal in calling for an end to the alleged abuses with both governments using its Asean channels to warn Burma of a refugee crisis and regional instability. Malaysia has also asked Asean member states to review Burma’s membership in the grouping.

The Asean grouping comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Burma, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

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