On Dec 4, Najib Abdul Razak attended a gathering to protest the violence perpetrated on the Rohingya community at a stadium in Kuala Lumpur, which led to counter demonstrations being held in Myanmar against the Malaysian prime minister.
An editorial published in the online version of the Frontier Myanmar magazine today accused Najib of making the situation worse in the Rakhine state.
Titled “The hypocrisy of Najib Razak”, the article agreed with detractors who said his participation and hard-hitting speech at the gathering was meant to bolster his popularity.
“His remarks 'Enough is enough', 'I refuse to shut my eyes and my mouth', 'We will continue to fight until the Rohingya are safe', and so on - have rightly been denounced as a piece of political theatre.
“You don’t need to be a scholar of Malaysian politics to see Najib is desperate to shore up his waning popularity among conservative Muslims.”
Conceding that the issues raised by Najib were important, Frontier said it too has called on the Myanmar government to conduct a transparent and credible investigation into allegations of abuses in Rakhine state, and the granting of access to aid workers and independent journalists to the affected area.
However, the editorial stated if Najib was sincere, he would have used diplomatic channels to raise his concerns.
“In the case, they needed to be expressed publicly, he would have done so in moderate language that would not inflame tensions further, rather than use the politicised and contested term 'genocide'.
“Instead, he has put his own political future ahead of bilateral relations (granted, he is not the first politician to do that) and made any genuine international efforts to improve the situation in Rakhine more difficult.
“Najib’s comments will only further harden local opinion against the international community. That is going to make the situation worse for Rakhine state’s Muslims. Thanks for nothing, Najib.”
The article, published on Dec 15, also claimed Najib is not in a position to claim the moral high ground, and noted how Malaysian commentators had urged the government to address human rights abuses at home.
“A great place to start would be respecting the rights of those Muslims from Rakhine state who have sought asylum in his own country.
“As of the end of October, there were almost 55,000 refugees in Malaysia who identify as Rohingya, according to the United Nations Refugee Agency, as well as many more who are not recognised (some estimate there may be up to 150,000).”
Look closer to home
While commending Malaysia for offering de facto protection to these people, the article noted that because Malaysia is not a signatory to the 1951 United Nations Refugee Convention, even recognised refugees face significant difficulties in Malaysia.
“They are unable to study or even send their children to school, which means that many are illiterate.
“They have no access to healthcare, and children born in Malaysia are unregistered. Unable to work legally, but with no other means of supporting themselves, they are vulnerable to exploitation by unscrupulous employers.”
Frontier claimed that rights abuses endured by the Muslims from Rakhine state in Malaysia extended beyond the simple denial of basic human rights.
“It should not be forgotten that people smugglers operated death camps for several years along the border between Thailand and Malaysia.
“On this issue, Malaysia has certainly dragged its feet. The camps on the Malaysian side of the border were only uncovered after Thailand launched its own crackdown, triggering the migrant crisis in mid-2015.
“While Thailand has made some prosecutions since the camps were uncovered, Malaysia has instead blamed the trafficking solely on the Rohingya. If any serious investigation was ever undertaken into the camps, it appears to have been kept under wraps.
“So if Najib is serious about protecting the rights of Rakhine state’s Muslim community, there are plenty of places he could start far closer to home.”- Mkini