The United Nations and Myanmar government came under fire on Tuesday for their inaction in resolving the Rohingya crisis which has displaced more than a million people in the country.
The UN’s silence on the crisis is deafening, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said, adding that the 75-year-old organisation has not fulfilled its purpose of preventing such man-made atrocities, the New Straits Times reported.
“Without Security Council's action, others must do their part to resolve the crisis and bring the perpetrators to justice,” he said at a high-level side event “Rohingya Crisis - A Way Forward” at the United Nations headquarters on Tuesday. Also present was Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed.
Myanmar’s military has been accused of murdering thousands of Rohingya in western Rakhine state since 2017, which has resulted in the mass exodus of these Muslim minorities to neighbouring countries, and led to the world’s largest refugee camp at Cox Bazar in Bangladesh.
Dr Mahathir said what happened in the Rakhine State is genocide.
“What took place were mass killings, systematic rape and other gross violations of human rights,” he said.
He commended the Organisation of Islamic Conference's (OIC) effort to bring the matter to the International Court of Justice, and hopes that other countries would support OIC to ensure the perpetrators do not get away with the heinous crimes they have committed.
“Malaysia, on our part, has also tried to do all it can. Apart from rendering humanitarian assistance, Malaysia is operating a field hospital in Cox’s Bazar. We are also hosting close to 100,000 registered Rohingya refugees,” he added.
Dr Mahathir said the longer the refugees stay in the Myanmar camps, the more desperate their situation becomes. Some become vulnerable to other forms of exploitation, including human trafficking and sex slavery.
He said the Myanmar authorities have also denied access to some UN officials and humanitarian aid workers.
“If Myanmar has nothing to hide, why bar others from seeing the situation in Rakhine? Let these officials and aid workers visit, inspect and assist those living in the camps.”
Dr Mahathir said if Myanmar is serious in alleviating the crisis, repatriation should be the main priority. Two attempts have been made to repatriate some of the refugees. Both have failed.
“Reasons for this are obvious. No one would return if they do not feel that their safety is guaranteed. On this, Malaysia will continue to insist that repatriation be done in a safe, voluntary and dignified manner.
“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,” he said.
Dr Mahathir said none of the atrocities committed in 2017 have been accounted for. Even those convicted for the Inn Dinn mass killings, for example, were released after serving barely one year of their 10-year sentence.
“The conviction was an attempt to deceive us into thinking that they are holding perpetrators accountable,” he added.
Dr Mahathir said Malaysia will continue to help the Rohingyas within its means and capacity.
“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.” he said.