KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is looking to continue its assistance to the Rohingya Muslim population in Myanmar who has been facing widespread threats to their security after violence erupted last summer in the country’s Western state.
1Malaysia Putera Club’s main Humanitarian Mission team, led by President Abdul Azeez Abdul Rahim, left for Myanmar on Saturday.
The 35-member team, which included volunteers and media personnel, departed from the Low Cost Carrier Terminal here and was sent off by Melaka chief minister, Datuk Seri Mohd Ali Rustam.
Speaking before his departure, Abdul Azeez said they were assisted by Prime Minister Najib Razak to gain permission to enter the country based on Malaysia’s close ties with Myanmar.
An estimated 500 tons of food, medicine and other items had been sent ahead by ship earlier followed by 14 volunteers on surveillance mission on September 29.
The team was expected to return on October 11 and the Club’s next mission was scheduled for October 19, to Syria, he added.
Meanwhile, the humanitarian mission included singer Irwan Shah Abdullah, better known as DJ Dave, as the representative of the 1Malaysia Artistes Foundation.
Since mid-June, Bangladesh authorities have admitted to forcing back at least 1,300 Rohingya trying to flee to Bangladesh, though the actual number is likely substantially higher, Human Rights Watch said. Rohingya are escaping killings, looting, and other sectarian violence in Arakan State, as well as abuses by the Burmese authorities, including ethnically motivated attacks and mass arrests.
A United Nations senior official expressed serious concern about reports of human rights violations committed by security forces in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, after clashes between its Buddhist and Muslim communities reportedly killed at least 78 people and displaced thousands in July.
“We have been receiving a stream of reports from independent sources alleging discriminatory and arbitrary responses by security forces, and even their instigation of and involvement in clashes,” the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, said in a news release.
“Reports indicate that the initial swift response of the authorities to the communal violence may have turned into a crackdown targeting Muslims, in particular members of the Rohingya [Muslim] community,” she added.
According to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the violence between ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims in the state, located in the country’s west, was triggered when an ethnic Rakhine woman was raped and murdered on May 28. This was followed by the killing of 10 Muslims by an unidentified mob on June 3.
Pillay called for a prompt, independent investigation, noting that the crisis reflects the long-standing and systemic discrimination against the Rohingya Muslim community, who are not recognized by the Government and remain stateless.
“The government has a responsibility to prevent and punish violent acts, irrespective of which ethnic or religious group is responsible, without discrimination and in accordance with the rule of law,” Pillay said.
She also called on national leaders to speak out against discrimination, the exclusion of minorities and racist attitudes, and in support of equal rights for all in Myanmar. She also stressed that the UN was making an effort to assist and protect all communities in Rakhine state.
“Prejudice and violence against members of ethnic and religious minorities run the risk of dividing the country in its commendable national reconciliation efforts, undermine national solidarity, and upset prospects of peace-building,” Pillay said.
Meanwhile, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said it is delivering aid to the more than 30,000 people that were affected by the violence.
“As we speak, additional tents are being airlifted from the Republic of Korea to meet urgent shelter needs on the ground,” a UNHCR spokesperson, Andrej Mahecic, told reporters in Geneva.