A coalition of Muslim civil society organizations (CSOs) in Burma objected to a rally led by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak in support of the Rohingya Muslim minority on Sunday. An open letter addressed to Malaysia’s ruling party on Monday stated that the situation in Arakan State was sensitive and should not be exploited for self-interest or political purposes.
Najib Razak staged the protest, announcing to State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s government that “enough is enough” and calling for Indonesia to join the movement to put pressure on Burma in support of the Rohingya.
The Burmese CSOs sent the letter to Malaysia’s ruling party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), through the Malaysian embassy in Rangoon but said they had not yet received a response.
Myat Noe Oo, the spokesperson for the Coalition of Myanmar Muslim CSOs, told The Irrawaddy that the groups do not accept Malaysia’s “intervention in domestic affairs” through labeling the Arakan conflict as a religious one.
“We hereby reassert that the Muslim community in Myanmar does not view this as religious persecution but as a controversial ethnic issue,” stated the open letter.
“Our situation is very complex therefore we do not want another country’s intervention, as it might lead to further difficulties and a move away from peace,” Myat Noe Oo added.
The Muslim coalition said in order to find a lasting solution to peace that international coordination and a multi-faceted approach are needed.
The President Office’s of the National League for Democracy government has responded to the Malaysian Prime Minister action’s by stating its “disappointment” and urging the use of diplomatic channels.
The Malaysian armed forces chief Gen Zulkifeli Bin Mohd Zin visited Burma and held separate meetings with President U Htin Kyaw and commander-in-chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing on Monday.
During the meeting of military leaders, the Burma Army chief said, “Bengali [Rohingya] problems in northern Rakhine State” were due to their “failure to abide by the existing laws of Myanmar.”
Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing claimed that Burmese security forces have never committed human rights violations such as extrajudicial killing, rape or arson, and that an investigation was being conducted. He reassured his Malaysian counterpart that “any violations [of his forces] would be dealt with through legal punishment.”
Following an outbreak of violence that began with border guard post attacks on Oct. 9, the Burma Army has faced widespread allegations of abuses. An official in Bangladesh from the UN refugee agency—UNHCR—accused the Burmese government in late November of carrying out ethnic cleansing against the country’s Muslim minority. The UN recently warned Burma that its reputation was at stake over its handling of the violence in Arakan State.