Getting rid of foreigners won’t solve Rakhine conflict, says Dr M

Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad speaks at the 33rd Asia Pacific Roundtable in Kuala Lumpur today.

KUALA LUMPUR: Dr Mahathir Mohamad today said getting rid of “foreigners” is not the way to resolve problems amid the ongoing conflict between Myanmar and Rakhine state which has seen thousands displaced from their homes.

The prime minister recalled how Uganda had expelled Indian nationals in the past, only for the community to be welcomed back to help prosper the East African nation.

“I think getting rid of foreigners because they are different, or claiming that they are foreigners and not citizens is not really a good way of solving a problem,” he said when asked to comment on how Malaysia would deal with displaced people in the region.

“I am quite sure that if the people in Rakhine state are given their rights, Myanmar would prosper and everyone would benefit,” he added after officiating the 33rd Asia Pacific Roundtable here.

Citing Malaysia’s decision to give citizenship to Chinese and Indian nationals brought into Malaya by the British, Mahathir said it was good to “adjust to circumstances”.

He acknowledged that the people in Myanmar might have other views on resolving the crisis but said it would nonetheless be “good to look at other countries in order to solve domestic issues”.

According to the United Nations (UN), the conflict in Myanmar has displaced some 30,000 people over the last six months.

It also saw the systematic expulsion of 730,000 Rohingya Muslims since 2017, for which UN investigators hold the military responsible.

In his keynote address earlier today, Mahathir said the crisis could be resolved if people are willing to negotiate with the shared goal of peace.

“We trust that such prospects can exist in Myanmar’s Rakhine state between the government, vigilante groups and the Rohingya community,” he said.