November 28, 2016 – Malaysia’s prime minister will be joining a gathering organized by the government to protest violence against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, according to his deputy.
Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi told a press conference that the Dec. 4 gathering would later determine Malaysia’s diplomatic ties with Myanmar’s government if it decides to continue military operations in troubled Rakhine State — home to around 1.2 million Rohingya.
“The gathering would be attended by Prime Minister Najib Razak and other political leaders. To-date, PAS President Abdul Hadi Awang has confirmed his participation,” he said late Saturday, referring to the Malaysian Islamic Party.
Hamidi also urged other major opposition political parties, namely the People’s Justice Party and the National Honest Party, to join the gathering.
“We put aside our political differences and as Muslims we gather to express our concern for our fellow Muslims in Myanmar,” he underlined.
The announcement came after thousands of people protesting violence against Rohingya joined demonstrations Friday in the capitals of Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
Over the past six weeks, rights groups have expressed concern over reports of killings, rapes, arbitrary arrests and other violations in villages predominantly inhabited by Rohingya in Rakhine amid military operations launched after fatal attacks on police outposts last month.
Myanmar has said that since Oct. 9, at least 86 people — 17 soldiers and 69 alleged “attackers” (among them two women) — have been killed, and property destroyed in the area.
Rohingya groups, however, claim that the number killed in one weekend alone earlier this month could be as high as 150 civilians.
Humanitarian outfits have called for independent investigations into the initial attacks, the ongoing operations and reported rapes and rights abuses in Rakhine, as with the area placed under military lockdown, rights groups and international reporters have been unable to enter.
Hamidi said Malaysia remains firm on the principle that it cannot interfere in the affairs of other countries, but said that on humanitarian grounds, it must express its concern to Myanmar authorities.
“We are not belittling other countries, but we have demonstrated our deep concerns over the Rohingya issues because as fellow Muslims we can feel their sufferings,” he stressed.
The deputy premier also said the gathering would discuss, and state the country’s stance, on calls for the withdrawal of the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Myanmar’s democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi, currently the country’s state counselor-cum-foreign minister.
“If someone who is given the award can no longer maintain peace, it [the conferment] can still be questioned,” Hamidi underlined.