Burma rebuffed Malaysia on Saturday for organising a meeting of Muslim governments to put pressure on Burma over the plight of Rohingya Muslims following a military crackdown that sent at least 66,000 people fleeing to Bangladesh.
Hosting a meeting of representatives from the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on Thursday, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak called on Burma, officially known as Myanmar, to stop attacking, and discriminating against the Rohingya minority.
Najib urged the OIC, which groups 57 Muslim nations, to act to end the unfolding “humanitarian tragedy”.
In response, Burma, a mostly Buddhist country, said it was “regrettable” that Malaysia had called the meeting, and accused Kuala Lumpur of exploiting the crisis “to promote a certain political agenda” and disregard for the government’s efforts to address it.
“The Government has been endeavouring to safeguard lives and ensure the security of the people from the violent attacks of new extremists,” said Burma‘s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement printed in the country’s state-run daily, the Global New Light of Myanmar.
The ministry is run by Nobel Peace Prize winner and de facto leader of Burma, Aung San Suu Kyi, who won 2015 elections in a landslide after decades of pro-democracy struggle, ushering in the country‘s first civilian government for about half a century.
Burmese authorities say the military launched a security sweep in response to what they say was an attack in October by Rohingya insurgents on border posts near Burma‘s border with Bangladesh in which nine police officers were killed.
Since then, at least 86 people have been killed and the United Nations says at least 66,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh.
Residents and refugees accuse the military of killing, raping and detaining civilians while burning villages in northwestern Arakan State.
The government denies the accusations and insists a lawful counter-insurgency operation is underway.
About 56,000 Rohingya live in Malaysia having fled unrest and persecution in Burma.
Kuala Lumpur 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 do its utmost to “avert the catastrophe that has been unfolding”.
On Friday, a United Nations human rights investigator criticised Burma‘s operation and urged the military to respect the law and human rights.