Anti-Myanmar anger rises across region

Anti-Myanmar anger rises across region

Ethnic Rohingya Muslim refugees hold placards and shout slogans during a protest outside the Myanmar Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. (AFP Photo)
Ethnic Rohingya Muslim refugees hold placards and shout slogans during a protest outside the Myanmar Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on Friday. (AFP Photo)

DHAKA: Angry Muslim protesters took to the streets from Jakarta to Dhaka on Friday to denounce Myanmar over allegations of indiscriminate killing and rape in a military crackdown on the country's Rohingya Muslim minority.

As many as 10,000 Bangladeshi Muslims demonstrated in the capital Dhaka after Friday prayers, with hundreds more protesting in Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta and Bangkok to accuse Myanmar of ethnic cleansing and genocide in its northern Rakhine state.

In Dhaka, the protesters from several Islamic groups burned an effigy of Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi and a flag of Myanmar. They carried banners reading "Open border to save the Rohingya". Bangladesh's southeast borders Myanmar.

Up to 500,000 undocumented Rohingya have been living in Bangladesh after arriving from Myanmar in waves since the 1970s. Some 33,000 registered Rohingya refugees are lodged in two camps in the Cox's Bazar district.

The cabinet of Muslim-majority Malaysia also issued a statement condemning the violence, an unusually strong criticism against a fellow member of Asean.

"Malaysia ... calls on the government of Myanmar to take all necessary actions to address the alleged ethnic cleansing," the statement said.

It said the Myanmar ambassador would be summoned over the crisis and that Malaysian Foreign Minister Anifah Aman would meet with Aung San Suu Kyi and other top Myanmar officials "at the earliest possible date".

Myanmar's leader has had little to say on the issue beyond saying that investigations are continuing, and never mentions the Rohingya by name for fear of antagonising hardline Buddhist agitators. Many observers believe Suu Kyi simply has not acquired the political capital she needs to start reining in the army, which still wields enormous influence in the country.

Up to 30,000 Rohingya have abandoned their homes in Myanmar to escape the unfolding violence, the UN says, after troops poured into the narrow strip where they live earlier this month.

Rohingya are denied citizenship and subject to harsh restrictions in Buddhist-majority Myanmar, where many view them as illegal immigrants from neighbouring Bangladesh, though many have lived been in Myanmar for generations.

The Dhaka protesters gathered outside the Baitul Mokarram mosque, the country’s largest, to demand an end to the violence, denounce  Aung San Suu Kyi, and call for Bangladesh to accept fleeing Rohingya.

Around 500 Malaysians and Rohingya marched through heavy rain from a Kuala Lumpur mosque to Myanmar's embassy carrying banners denouncing the Rakhine "genocide".

Abu Tahir, a 60-year-old Rohingya man who demonstrated with a chain coiled around his body, said he had been cut off from his family in Rakhine since he fled two years ago.

"The Rohingya are being treated like dogs, and are being killed," he said, tears rolling down his face.

Amir Hamzah, 60, who heads the Malaysian Muslims Coalition, an NGO, said "the people of Malaysia strongly condemn" Myanmar's actions.

"We want an immediate stop to the violence. This is cruel," he said.

In Jakarta, around 200 demonstrators from Indonesian Islamic organisations protested outside Myanmar's embassy.

Chanting "Allahu Akbar! (God is great!)", they called for the government of Indonesia -- the world's most populous Muslim country -- to break off diplomatic ties with Myanmar and for Suu Kyi's 1991 Nobel Peace Prize to be revoked.

"This genocide is happening to women, children and the elderly," said Maya Hayati, a 34-year-old housewife.

"If they (Myanmar) don't want them, then it's probably better to send them to another country. Don't torture them like that in their own country."

The UN says the stateless Rohingya are among the world's most persecuted minorities.

The UN refugee agency says well over 120,000 have fled Rakhine since a previous bout of bloody unrest in 2012, many braving a perilous sea journey to Malaysia.

Last year, thousands were stranded at sea after a well-worn trafficking route through Thailand collapsed following a police crackdown sparked by the discovery of brutal human-trafficking camps along the Malaysia border.

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