Malaysia to summon Myanmar envoy on Rohingya as protests mount

November 25, 2016 4:17 AM EST

Muslims protest against what they say is Myanmar's crackdown on ethnic Rohingya Muslims, outside the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok, Thailand November 25, 2016. REUTERS/Jorge Silva


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By Joseph Sipalan and Ruma Paul

KUALA LUMPUR/DHAKA (Reuters) - Malaysia will summon Myanmar's ambassador over the crackdown on Rohingya Muslims in northwestern Rakhine state, it said on Friday, as protesters across Southeast Asia demonstrated against the rising violence.

The conflict in Rakhine has sent hundreds of Rohingya Muslims fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh and poses a serious challenge to leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who swept to power last year on promises of national reconciliation.

At least 86 people are reported to have been killed in escalating violence that has displaced about 30,000 in the region's most serious bloodshed since hundreds were killed in communal clashes in 2012.

The Malaysian foreign ministry called on all parties involved to refrain from actions that could aggravate the situation.

"Malaysia also calls on the government of Myanmar to take all the necessary actions to address the alleged ethnic cleansing in the northern Rakhine State," the ministry said in a statement.

"The ministry will summon the ambassador of Myanmar to convey the government of Malaysia’s concern over this issue," it added, without giving a timeframe.

Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims marched in the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, condemning the bloody crackdown on the persecuted minority and criticizing Nobel Peace Prize winner Suu Kyi for her inaction on the matter.

Protesters demanded humanitarian aid for Rakhine, and urged that the military seize all attackers.

"The Myanmar government says the claims are all fabricated but they are not fabricated," Rohingya community leader Muhammed Noor told reporters, referring to reports of incidents of killing, rapes of wives and daughters and home burnings.

"This movement has to continue, to pressure the government to stop the killing."

OTHER PROTESTS

This week, Muslim-majority Malaysia said it was considering pulling out from a regional soccer tournament co-hosted by Myanmar in protest against the crackdown. But it later decided to continue. [nL4N1DQ1CI]

Protests were also held simultaneously in Bangkok, the capital of neighboring Thailand, in the capital of Bangladesh and in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta.

Protesters in Jakarta called for the Nobel panel to cancel its award to Suu Kyi.

Indonesia is "ready and willing" to help Myanmar initiate dialogue, its foreign minister, Retno Marsudi, said this week.

Many among the Buddhist majority in Myanmar view its 1.1 million Rohingya as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.

Several thousand of Bangladeshis took to the streets in the capital on Friday in protest against the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

Leaders and activists from several Islamic groups chanted slogan “Stop killing Rohingya Muslims” and burned an effigy of Suu Kyi as they marched in Dhaka in front of a national masque after prayers amid tight security.

They also demanded that Bangladesh’s border be opened to Rohingya Muslims fleeing the violence in Myanmar.

Bangladesh’s foreign minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali has said the South Asian country is allowing in some of the Rohingya Muslims on humanitarian grounds but it won’t open the border with Myanmar.

Persecution and poverty led thousands of Rohingya to flee Myanmar following the violence between Buddhists and Muslims there four years ago. Many of them were smuggled or trafficked to Thailand, Malaysia and beyond.

(Additional reporting by Johan Purnama in Jakarta and Cod Satrusayang in Bangkok; Writing by Praveen Menon; Editing by Tom Heneghan)



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