Leaders of Southeast Asian countries should be more proactive in handling the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Myanmar, according to Malaysia’s Deputy King Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah.
Late Tuesday he called on Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and regional leaders to step up their approach and find the will to stop the mass killings of the Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
Shah, who studied at Harvard and Oxford universities, said Southeast Asian leaders should put friendship and bilateral ties aside when dealing with the Rohingya crisis.
“The fears of upsetting our neighbors, fear of being accused of interference, or fear of affecting our regional trade and commerce should not prevent us from voicing our anxieties and alarm at what is happening in Rakhine state,” he told a dinner to raise funds for the Rohingya people in the capital Kuala Lumpur.
Shah, who also represents the Malaysian government as financial ambassador of the Malaysian International Islamic Financial Centre (MIFC), stressed that considerations such as non-interference and financial concerns should be secondary to addressing the crisis in Myanmar.
The deputy king urged regional leaders to learn the lessons of the 1970s Cambodian civil war, as the Rohingya crisis was shaping into another similarly deadly and disruptive conflict.
Malaysia has strongly questioned the manner in which Myanmar addressed the Rohingya issue, saying that the country denied permission for the international community to provide humanitarian aid to the persecuted group.
- Ongoing crisis
Since Aug. 25, some 501,000 Rohingya have crossed from Myanmar's western state of Rakhine into Bangladesh, the UN said on Sept. 28.
The refugees are fleeing a military operation in which security forces and Buddhist mobs have killed men, women and children, looted homes, and torched Rohingya villages. According to Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hasan Mahmood Ali, around 3,000 Rohingya have been killed in the crackdown.
Turkey has been at the forefront of providing aid to Rohingya refugees, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has raised the issue at the UN.
The Rohingya, described by the UN as the world's most persecuted people, have faced heightened fears of attack since dozens were killed in communal violence in 2012.
The UN has documented mass gang rapes, killings -- including of infants and young children -- brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by security personnel. In a report, UN investigators said such violations may have constituted crimes against humanity.