RANGOON — A spokesperson for Burma’s President’s Office said he was disappointed with the Malaysian prime minister’s participation in a rally against Burma’s persecution of Rohingya Muslims and his criticism of the Burmese government on the issue.
Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak led a protest rally in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday against what he called a “genocide” of the Rohingya minority in western Burma, and he urged Asian neighbors and the world to step up their pressure to halt the violence.
President’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay questioned the prime minister’s participation and suggested that he had used his religious beliefs for political gain, according to local media.
“We are really disappointed by his actions. It seems like he was using religion as a stepping stone to garner popular support for the upcoming elections,” said U Zaw Htay, referring to Najib’s diminished popularity at home in the wake of recent corruption allegations.
“Malaysia and Myanmar have a good relationship,” said U Zaw Htay. “But instead of asking for information about the Arakan situation via diplomatic channels, the prime minister led a protest. This is very disappointing.”
The Malaysian prime minister’s criticism of the Arakan situation had the potential to fuel more religious extremism and militancy in Burma, the spokesperson added.
“His actions will have an impact not only on Burma but on the whole Asean region,” U Zaw Htay said.
He pointed out that the Malaysian prime minister’s actions were not in keeping with the 10-member Asean charter. The charter states that actions should be taken upon the consensus of all member countries and it discourages interference in the internal affairs of other member states.
On Sunday, Buddhist monks and nationalists responded by staging an anti-Najib protest in downtown Rangoon. As of Monday morning, the Burmese government still had not officially responded to Prime Minister Najib’s participation in the protest.