Aung San Suu Kyi must step in to prevent the “genocide” of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, Malaysia’s prime minister said Sunday as he mocked the Nobel laureate for her inaction.
Addressing a 5,000-strong rally in Kuala Lumpur, Najib Razak said the Myanmar government must stop the bloody crackdown in its far west that has sent thousands of Rohingya fleeing, many with stories of rape, torture and murder.
“What’s the use of Aung San Suu Kyi having a Nobel prize?” Najib asked a raucous crowd. “We want to tell Aung San Suu Kyi, enough is enough... We must and we will defend Muslims and Islam,” he said.
More than 10,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh in recent weeks, the United Nations said on Wednesday, escaping a bloody army crackdown in the north of Rakhine state.
Arrivals in Bangladesh have said horrifying stories of gang rape, torture and murder at the hands of Myanmar’s security forces.
Myanmar has denied allegations of abuse, but has also banned foreign journalists and independent investigators from the area.
Muslim-majority Malaysia has recently upped its criticism of Myanmar for its handling of the crisis.
Last month it summoned the Myanmar ambassador, while around 500 Malaysians and Rohingya marched to the embassy in the Malaysian capital carrying banners denouncing the “genocide.”
A senior minister has called on Asean, the ten-country Southeast Asia bloc, to review Myanmar’s membership, while a strongly worded statement from the foreign ministry Saturday accused Myanmar of engaging in “ethnic cleansing.”
But analysts said Sunday the issue is a convenient smokescreen for Najib, who is fighting allegations he took part in the looting of billions of dollars of public cash through state fund 1MDB.
James Chin, director of the Asia Institute at the University of Tasmania, said that Najib “is there (at the rally) to boost his standing as an Islamic leader,” with a general election looming.
“Najib is looking for anything to make him look good and the Rohingya issue is simply a tool,” said Bridget Welsh, a Malaysia politics expert with Turkey’s Ipek University.
She added that if Najib’s government really cared for the Rohingya, they would “reexamine their own treatment of the community within Malaysia.”