Dr Mahathir sets the alarm off on Rohingya crisis

Myanmar’s unwillingness to take any action to resolve the refugee crisis proves that its attempt to ensure accountability has failed


PRIME Minister (PM) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad wasted no time setting off the alarm bells at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly on Tuesday, in calling out the international body and Myanmar for their neglect over the Rohingya crisis.

Dr Mahathir, who has been a vocal critic of the genocide at Rakhine, said Myanmar’s unwillingness to take any action to resolve the refugee crisis proves that its attempt to ensure accountability has failed.

“It is clear that the Myanmar government is unwilling to take any action to resolve the crisis. Therefore, it is left up to us — the international community — to do something about the situation.

“Without Security Council action, others must do their part to resolve the crisis and bring perpetrators to justice,” the elderly statesman said at a high-level event on the ‘Rohingya Crisis — A Way Forward’ held at the UN headquarters in New York.

Dr Mahathir’s condemnation is a repeat of his message at the Asean Summit in Singapore last year where he called for an end to the oppression of the stateless minority.

The international community has taken some action, with the most recent involving travel sanctions by the US against the Myanmar army’s top commanders. Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court have also been granted permission to open a preliminary probe into the atrocities.

However, the response from Myanmar has been muted. Dr Mahathir urged the country to demonstrate its seriousness in alleviating the crisis, by effectively putting an end to the plight of the Rohingya.

“In doing so, repatriation should be the main priority. Two attempts have been made to repatriate some of the refugees. Both have failed. The reasons for this are obvious. No one would return if they do not feel that their safety is guaranteed.

“This can only be done by granting full citizenship to the Rohingyas. However, the Myanmar authorities have manipulated the Rohingya issue to incite fear, hatred and violence. Thus, merely considering the idea of granting citizenship is unacceptable,” Dr Mahathir said.

The PM commended efforts by Bangladesh and Malaysia in hosting over 1.2 million Rohingya refugees and in rendering humanitarian assistance at Cox’s Bazar — a settlement located on the southeast coast of Bangladesh which has turned into the world’s largest refugee site.

“What took place were mass killings, systematic rape and other gross violations of human rights. This resulted in Rohingyas fleeing the country en masse. Most ended up in Cox’s Bazar. On this, we commend Bangladesh for all it has done in hosting more than 1.2 million Rohingya refugees.

“Malaysia has done and will continue to do what it can. Nevertheless, we hope others would also join us and Bangladesh in our resolve to end the miseries that have befallen the Rohingyas. We need to put an end to the crisis and we need to do it now,” Dr Mahathir said.