ANKARA (AA) - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s comments on the Rohingya genocide has angered Myanmar, as it continued to deny crimes against the Muslim community in Rakhine state.
In an exclusive interview with Anadolu Agency last week, Mahathir had said that the Rohingya faced “massacre or genocide” and “they should either be treated as nationals, or they should be given their territory to form their own state.”
Taking exception, Myanmar’s Foreign Ministry, in a statement on Wednesday, expressed “dismay and objected” to the Malaysian leader’s comments.
Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Myint Thu who met Malaysian Ambassador to Myanmar Zahairi Baharim on Wednesday at the headquarters of Myanmar Foreign Ministry in Naypyitaw, rejected the allegations of genocide.
“Such allegations are not supportive to the ongoing efforts of Myanmar government and ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] in finding a sustainable solution for peace, development and social harmony in Rakhine State,” he told the Malaysian envoy.
He also said that Malaysian leader’s statement was not constructive and described it as a breach of the principles enshrined in the ASEAN Charter.
“It was also against the ASEAN’s cardinal principles of non-interference in the internal affairs and respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of ASEAN member states,” said the ministry statement.
Rohingya experts, however, blamed Myanmar for "buying time" and diverting the focus of international community, by repeatedly denying crimes, it has committed against the Rohingya Muslim community in the Rakhine state.
Some 750,000 Rohingya fled state persecution since August 2017 and took shelter in neighboring Bangladesh as thousands were killed, raped and hundreds of Rohingya villages were completely burnt.
- ‘Mahathir is absolutely factual’
Backing the Malaysian leader, Maung Zarni, a Burmese coordinator of the Free Rohingya Coalition, said the leader was "discharging his obligations as a head of state, to call for ending the ongoing genocide, restoring Rohingya full and equal citizenship, or simply intervening to return Rohingya their stolen ancestral land by Myanmar."
“Mahathir is absolutely factual when he said Myanmar is committing a genocide,” said Zarni, who is also a fellow at the Genocide Documentation Center of Cambodia.
The rights activist said there was an “overwhelming evidence that has been amassed by the UN Fact-Finding Mission, as well as my own research and that of world renowned research institutions such as Yale Law School Human Rights Clinic or US Holocaust Memorial Museum, to unequivocally support Mahathir's statement about Myanmar commissioning a genocide."
He also stated that all member states of the UN “are obligated to intervene orally, diplomatically or even militarily to prevent, end or punish a state that violates the Genocide Convention.”
Zarni criticized ASEAN for its policy to remain silent, about ongoing genocide against Rohingya.
He charged the ASEAN grouping using the narrative of non-interference, to whitewash Myanmar genocide.
“ASEAN has absolutely no credibility either among the 600 million residents of the region, or internationally. It is nothing but a club of autocrats and authoritarian regimes in Southeast Asia," he added.
Kyaw Win, head of a U.K.-based rights group, also hailed Mahathir’s comment while accusing Myanmar’s government of diverting “the attention of the international community in a different direction”.
He stated that Myanmar has a “well-planned strategy to eliminate the Rohingya population from the country” and it “knows how to buy time”
Win, who is also executive director of the Burma Human Rights Network, said it was a moral duty of every human being to raise voice against a country engaged in committing mass atrocities, such as genocide or crimes against humanity.
Underlining that Myanmar is “extremely stubborn” and its leaders “do not understand humanity and civilized dialogue”, the rights activist called for a pragmatic approach that can achieve the return of the Rohingya to their home with dignity and rights.