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'Taking in Rohingyas nothing to do with religion'
Published on: Thursday, September 21, 2017

MALAYSIA made loud and clear its stand of accepting Rohingya refugees fleeing alleged persecution in Myanmar at the meeting of the OIC Contact Group at the 72nd Session of the UN General Assembly, here.

The closed-door meeting was convened in the wake of the deteriorating situation in Rakhine State.

Malaysia's Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman said: "We accept the Rohingyas and will carry on for humanitarian sake until such time a Third Country takes them. It has nothing to do with religion.

"We are worried that this could be the root cause of giving a 'vacuum' reason for Daesh to come in.

When one feels a sense of helplessness, they may resort to something, and that is a perfect situation whereby militant groups like Daesh will surface. They will affect Malaysia and neighbouring countries."

According to him, subsequent security operations have claimed many innocent civilian lives and displaced thousands.

"Malaysia is gravely concerned at the indiscriminate violence perpetrated against the Rohingyas during these security operations. This disproportionate response has resulted in a full-scale humanitarian crisis.

The violence there has sparked large movements of people into neighbouring countries," he said.

Since the current violence began on Aug. 25, more than 400,000 Rohingyas were forced to flee their homes and have crossed the border into Bangladesh.

"I take this opportunity to commend the noble efforts of Bangladesh to address the plight of the Rohingyas.

This has garnered wide international attention from many counties that have pledged humanitarian assistance," said Anifah.

The Foreign Minister added that Malaysia on its part has sent its first consignment of humanitarian aid which arrived in Chittagong on September 9, and more will follow.

On why Malaysia is so strong in pursuing the issue, he said overall, the country has registered some 65,000 refugees (other groups) with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and the figure could be much more than that. "Of course, the influx has caused social problems and security-wise too."

Anifah was happy that quite a number of Presidents and Prime Ministers of the OIC Contact Group attended the meeting and fully supported Malaysia's stand.

He said all of them urged the Myanmar Government to address the heinous crime, some of them calling it ethnic cleansing or genocide, and to allow the Rohingyas to return to their homeland with dignity.

He said Malaysia and the members of the OIC Contact Group urged the Myanmar Government to implement the recommendations made by the District Advisory Commission.

"We are hoping that the Myanmar Government will adhere to the call of the international community.

And we, also as a member of Asean, are prepared to extend support and assist the Myanmar Government in whatever way possible to address the complex challenges in Rakhine State."

On the failure of the Myanmar Government to send a representative to the meeting of the OIC Contact Group, Anifah said this was disappointing, given that this is a grave issue of international interest.

"It is a well-known fact that the Daesh is now seeking to make Southeast Asia and South Asia its nest and bedrock. Should this happen, Malaysia and neighbouring countries would bear the brunt of serious instability to the region.

"For this reason, Malaysia calls upon the Government of Myanmar to stop the military action immediately and allow unimpeded access for the delivery of humanitarian aid," he asserted.

At this juncture, Anifah urged the Government of Myanmar to ensure the return of all the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) with safety and dignity to Rakhine State, including the restoration of their status since the revocation of their fundamental rights in 1982. "These rights must be addressed without reservation.

This is to ensure the Rohingyas' unjustifiable statelessness be reversed now."

Malaysia also called on State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi for the immediate implementation of all the recommendations of the District Advisory Commission on Rakhine State that was chaired by Kofi Annan.

In his conclusion, Anifah said : "Those perpetrators who had committed despicable crimes against humanity must be held accountable and be brought to justice. We must act now. We must move beyond rhetoric.

We must save lives. We must ensure that the ancestor land of the Rohingyas is restored." - From Mary Chin in New York Correction The Ministry would like to clarify that Dato' Sri Anifah Aman was referring to the irregular migrants of Rohingya descent who were allowed into Malaysia on humanitarian grounds in May 2015, on the condition that they be returned home or resettled in third countries. They were drifting and left abandoned on boats in the Andaman Sea due to desperation in Rakhine State.

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