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Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called on Burma on Thursday to stop all discrimination and attacks on Rohingya Muslims, and urged the world’s Islamic countries to act to end an unfolding “humanitarian tragedy.”
Malaysia has spoken out strongly against mostly Buddhist Burma over its treatment of its Rohingya minority, especially since October, when security forces launched a crackdown in the north of Arakan State on the Bangladesh border, where many Rohingya live.
At least 86 people have been killed and an estimated 66,000 have fled into Bangladesh since nine Myanmar policemen were killed on 9 October in attacks on border posts that the Burmese government blamed on Rohingya supported by foreign militants.
“The killing must stop. The violation of women and girls must stop,” Najib, the leader of Muslim-majority Malaysia told a meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) called by Malaysia to discuss the Rohingya.
“The persecution of your fellow men and women, simply on the grounds that they are Muslim, must stop,” he said.
Refugees, residents and human rights groups say Burmese forces have committed summary executions, raped women and burned homes.
But the Burmese government led by Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi has denied the accusations, saying many of the reports are fabricated. It insists the strife in Arakan State is an internal matter.
Najib, who joined protesters in Kuala Lumpur last month calling for foreign intervention to stop “genocide,” said Burma must act.
“We call on the government of Myanmar to cease all discriminatory actions and attacks against the Rohingyas immediately, and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice,” he said.
Rohingya have faced discrimination in Burma for generations. They are not classified as a distinct group under citizenship law and are regarded instead as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, entitled only to limited rights.
The violence in the north of Arakan State since October is the most serious since communal clashes in 2012 in which hundreds of people were killed.
Malaysia summoned Burma’s ambassador last year to protest against the treatment of Rohingya, breaking a tradition of non-intervention by members of the Association of South East Asian Nations in each other’s affairs.
Najib said it would be a disgrace if the Southeast Asian group did not live up to it principles and do its utmost to “avert the catastrophe that has been unfolding.”
He told the fellow Muslim countries of the OIC they could not “stand by and do nothing.”
“It is incumbent on us all to do what we can to save them from the humanitarian tragedy they are suffering,” he said.
The OIC represents 57 states with a population of more than 1.6 billion people, and acts as the collective voice of the Muslim world.
Najib called on Burma to provide unimpeded access for humanitarian aid to the affected areas and to facilitate the return of refugees.
He said Malaysia would give 10 million ringgit ($2.25 million) for the humanitarian efforts, and send a food flotilla. No further details were made available.
About 56,000 Rohingya live in Malaysia having fled and unrest and persecution in Burma.
The OIC’s special envoy to Burma said this week the United Nations should intervene to avert genocide.
OIC Secretary General Yousef Al Othaimeen said Burma must prevent “ongoing discrimination and the unwarranted systematic abuse against the Rohingya.”
Malaysia’s top counter-terrorism official has said Burma faces a growing danger of attacks by foreign militants in support of Rohingya.