MALAYSIAN Prime Minister Najib Razak, has committed RM10 million (US$2.2 million) in aid to the Rohingya community in Burma’s restive northern Rakhine state.
The money is intended to assist humanitarian efforts and social rehabilitation projects, including building infrastructure for educational and medical institutions.
As reported by the Malay Mail Online, Najib delivered the promise during his speech to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Council of Foreign Ministers on the Rohingya, who met today for a Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) in Kuala Lumpur.
Today’s extraordinary session was convened at the request of the Malaysian Government to discuss the ongoing situation of Rohingya Muslims in Burma.
“As a true and long-standing friend of Myanmar, I say this from the bottom of my heart – it is time to end this crisis,” Najib said.
“We supported our near neighbours when they were alone and friendless.
“The political progress that they have made since then is testimony of our faith in Myanmar, its government and its people,” he added.
Najib went on to reaffirm his belief that the persecution of the Rohingya and the denial of their basic rights – just because they were Muslim – must be stopped.
He also urged the international community, including the OIC, to work together to put a stop to the crises that has been plaguing northern Burma in recent months.
Najib has been vocal of his support for the Rohingya community in the past, attending a rally in Kuala Lumpur last month despite calls from Burma not to get involved in their internal affairs.
His outspoken approach has come under attack from critics who claim the beleaguered prime minister is reaching for the moral high ground in order to pander to Malay Muslim voters in the wake of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) scandal and his dwindling popularity.
The multi-billion dollar graft scandal has marred Najib’s reputation and led to large scale protests in the capital Kuala Lumpur, calling for his resignation.
Najib’s announcement comes just days after the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights, Yanghee Lee, concluded a three-day visit to probe the situation in the northern Rakhine area.
The U.N. believes that, following an army crackdown in the area, an estimated 65,000 Muslim ethnic Rohingya have been forced to flee across the border to Bangladesh in the past three months.
The crackdown began in October after nine policemen were killed in attacks by a group along the border.
“We really hope that her visit brings a positive change for Rohingya and we hope to gain our human rights,” a displaced Rohingya man living temporarily in Kyee Kan Pyin village told the Associated Press (via The New York Times).
This is Lee’s fifth mission to Myanmar. In November, she spoke out forcefully about the alleged abuses and called for an immediate and independent inquiry.
Despite vocal condemnation for the attacks, the Burmese government and the army have rejected the accusations of abuses and killings, saying recently that they have simply been conducting a “clearance operation” in the region.