Malaysian PM Sends Off Aid Ship Bound for Burma

By Reuters 3 February 2017

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak on Friday sent off a ship carrying tons of food and emergency supplies to Muslim communities in Arakan State, saying their suffering would not be ignored.

Najib has been an outspoken critic of the treatment of predominantly Buddhist Burma’s Muslim Rohingya minority, calling on the government to stop attacks.

The Burmese government has denied the accusations, saying many reports of violence against Muslims are fabricated. It insists strife in Arakan State is an internal matter.

“This is a historic moment … a noble effort that shows that all the pain and suffering of Rohingya in Burma will not go ignored,” Najib said in a speech at a port near the capital of mostly Muslim Malaysia.

“We hear their pain, those who have been raped, murdered and burned alive.”

Burma security forces launched a crackdown in the north of Arakan State, on the border with Bangladesh, in October after nine policemen were killed in militant attacks on border posts.

At least 86 people have been killed and about 66,000 have fled into Bangladesh since then to escape what refugees, residents, and human rights groups say have been abuses by Burma forces including summary executions and rape.

The aid shipment, bound for Rangoon, has been organized by Malaysian Muslim groups, as well as domestic and foreign aid groups.

The ship is expected to arrive in Rangoon on Feb. 9 where it will unload 550 tons of supplies, organizers said.

It will then embark on a three-day journey to Teknaf port in Bangladesh.

‘Political Agenda’

Burma has not allowed the ship to sail to Sittwe, the capital of Arakan State, as organizers had hoped. Burma has also insisted that the aid to be distributed equally to both Buddhist and Muslim communities.

“We are still hoping with all our hearts that they will eventually allow us to visit Sittwe and distribute the aid ourselves,” said the mission chief, Abdul Azeez Abdul.

Malaysia has urged the Association of South East Asian Nations to coordinate aid and investigate alleged atrocities committed against the Rohingya, breaking the 10-nation group’s long-standing tradition of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.

Burma, in turn, has accused Malaysia of exploiting the crisis “to promote a certain political agenda.”