Malaysia prime minister Mahathir Mohammad addresses a ‘High-level Event on the Situation of Rohingya Minority in Myanmar’ in New York on Tuesday afternoon (local time) while Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina listens. Photo: PID
Malaysia prime minister Mahathir Mohammad addresses a ‘High-level Event on the Situation of Rohingya Minority in Myanmar’ in New York on Tuesday afternoon (local time) while Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina listens. Photo: PID

Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohammad has criticised the Myanmar government saying the situation inside the country is not any better comparing with the forcibly displaced Rohingyas.

“Many Rohingyas have become internally-displaced persons (IDPs) and languishing in camps in Rakhaine,” he said while addressing a “High-level Event on the Situation of Rohingya Minority in Myanmar” in New York on Tuesday afternoon (local time).

Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina also addressed the programme saying she is going to place a four-point proposal at the ongoing United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) seeking a long-term solution to the protracted Rohingya crisis.

Mahathir said when the world likened the IDP camps to those notorious concentration camps of the past, the Myanmar government has denied quickly.

“Yet the Myanmar authorities have denied access to some UN officials and humanitarian aid workers. If Myanmar has nothing to hide why bar others from seeing the situation in Rakhaine?” he questioned.

“Let these officials and aid workers visit, inspect and assist those living in the camps … Myanmar should demonstrate that it is serious in alleviating the crisis,” he said, adding in doing so repatriation should be the main priority.

The Malaysian premier said two attempts have been made to repatriate some of the refugees, but both have failed.

“Reasons for these are obvious -- no one would return if they do not feel that their safety is guaranteed,” he said.

Mahathir said Malaysia will continue to insist that repatriation be done in a safe voluntary and dignified manner. “This can only be done by granting full citizenship to the Rohingyas,” he said.

He, however, said the Myanmar authorities had manipulated the Rohingya issue to incite fear, hatred and violence.

“Thus, merely considering the idea of granting citizenship is unacceptable. It is obvious that Myanmar’s attempt on ensuring accountability has failed,” he said.

Mahathir continued: “How would such attempt work if the perpetrators responsible for the atrocities are part of the system?”

He said it is clear that the Myanmar government is unwilling to resolve the crisis. “Therefore it is left up to us -- the international community -- to do something about the situation,” he said.

The Malaysian PM further said the UN should play its role taking into account that it was established in hopes of preventing future human made miseries. “Its silence is deafening.”

Without Security Council action, he said, other must do their part to resolve the crisis and bring perpetrators to justice.

Mahathir said Malaysia commends the positive efforts of the OIC in addressing the Rohingya issue at the international fora.

“And, for the decision to bring the matter to the International Court of Justice. We hope other countries would support the OIC to ensure that the perpetrators do not get away with the heinous crimes that they have committed,” he said.

Highlighting Malaysia’s humanitarian assistance for the Rohingyas, Mahathir said, “We will continue to help the Rohingyas within our means and capacity.”

He said Malaysia has done and will continue to do what it can.

“Nevertheless we hope others would also join us and Bangladesh in our resolve to end the miseries that have befallen the Rohingyas. We need to put an end to the crisis and we need to do it now.”

Terming atrocities on Rohingyas as the genocide in Cambodia, he said, “Let us start by calling a spade, a spade. What happened in the Rakhine state is genocide.”

The Malaysian premier said what took place were the mass killings, systematic rape and other gross violation of human rights.

“These resulted in Rohingyas fleeing the country en masse. Most ended in Cox’s Bazar. On this, we commend Bangladesh for all it has done in hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingya refugees.

Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen delivered the welcome address, while chairperson of Bangladesh National Advisory Committee for Autism and Neuro-developmental Disorders Saima Wazed Hossain, minister of environment, forest and climate change Md Shahab Uddin, state minister for foreign affairs Md Shahriar Alam and chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on foreign affairs ministry Muhammad Faruk Khan were present on the occasion.

Briefing newsmen after the event, the foreign minister said the participants extended a stronger support to Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue.

They also want safe, secure and dignified repatriation of the Rohingyas from Bangladesh, Momen said.

Highly praising Bangladesh’s noble gesture of hosting over 1.1 million Rohingyas, everybody has assured that they will persuade Myanmar to take back their nationals from Bangladesh, the foreign minister said.

“I think it’s a great achievement for Bangladesh,” he said.

The foreign minister said the event was followed by a pledging session organised by Saudi Arabia where different OIC member countries promised to donate a total of US$270 million to the UNHCR.

OIC secretary general Yousef bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen and Saudi foreign minister Ibrahim bin Abdulaziz Al-Assaf also spoke at the event.

Besides, ministers and representatives of different countries including the USA, the UK, Canada, Germany, Belgium, European Union, Sweden, the Netherlands, Turkey, Sweden, Singapore, Kuwait, Serbia, the Philippines and Gambia also joined the event.