By Omer Faruk Yildiz
KUALA LUMPUR (AA) - Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad slammed Myanmar for failing to resolve the Rohingya crisis.
Mahathir spoke at the high-level side event "Rohingya Crisis - A Way Forward" at the UN headquarters on Tuesday.
"What happened in [Myanmar's northern ]Rakhine state is genocide. What took place were mass killings, systematic rape and other gross violations of human rights,” he said.
He stressed that the Myanmar government was unwilling to take any action to resolve the crisis.
Mahathir said this resulted in the Rohingya fleeing the country en masse, with most of them ending up in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar district of Bangladesh.
"We commend Bangladesh for all it has done in hosting more than 1.2 million Rohingya refugees," he said.
Underlining that Malaysia also tried to do its best, he called on other states to make efforts to put an end to the crisis.
He said Malaysia will continue to insist that repatriation be done in "a safe, voluntary and dignified manner".
"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," he said.
- Bangladesh to demand trial for crimes against Rohingya in UN
Speaking at the same event, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said she will raise the issue at the UN General Assembly during her speech scheduled on Friday.
"International community must ensure that the root causes of Rohingya problem are addressed and atrocity crimes committed against the Rohingya are accounted for", state-run Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha news agency reported her words.
She will place a four-point proposal for peace repatriation of the Rohingya refugees and sustainable solution to the crisis.
Hasina urged Myanmar to show clear political will through concrete actions for sustainable return of Rohingya to Myanmar, as she has been facing mounting pressure in home for sending the refugees back to their own lands in Rakhine state.
Rohingya repeatedly rejected joint effort by Bangladesh and Myanmar for their return, as they demand peaceful environment in the Rakhine state along with dignified citizenship and safety.
"Myanmar must build trust among the Rohingya by discarding discriminatory laws and allow frequent visits to northern Rakhine by the Rohingya representatives and guarantee safety and dignity of the Rohingya," Hasina added.
Referring to the delay of Rohingya repatriation as "regrettable," she said: "they [Rohingya] must be able to return to their homes where they lived for centuries".
- Persecuted people
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
According to Amnesty International, more than 750,000 Rohingya refugees, mostly women and children, have fled Myanmar and crossed into Bangladesh after Myanmar forces launched a crackdown on the minority Muslim community in August 2017, pushing the number of persecuted people in Bangladesh above 1.2 million.
Since Aug. 25, 2017, nearly 24,000 Rohingya Muslims have been killed by Myanmar’s state forces, according to a report by the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).
More than 34,000 Rohingya were also thrown into fires, while over 114,000 others were beaten, said the OIDA report, titled "Forced Migration of Rohingya: The Untold Experience."
Some 18,000 Rohingya women and girls were raped by Myanmar’s army and police and over 115,000 Rohingya homes were burned down and 113,000 others vandalized, it added.
*Writing by Gozde Bayar; MD Kamruzzaman contributed to this story from Dhaka, Bangladesh.