PETALING JAYA: It has been a year since the wave of hate speech and threats against the Rohingya community in Malaysia started. However, human rights activists say the hostility remains unresolved.
Rights activist John Quinley of Fortify Rights, who has documented abuses against the Rohingya in Myanmar, Bangladesh, Malaysia and India, said the current situation against the community remains a cause for concern.
“Since the Covid-19 pandemic, anti-refugee sentiment in Malaysia has increased,” he told FMT.
Apart from hateful remarks on media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook, Quinley said, Rohingya refugees also received death threats and verbal abuse.
“Prominent Rohingya activists have gone into hiding out of well-founded fears of violence,” he said.
In April last year, social media users flooded Facebook and Twitter with hateful remarks and threats against Rohingya refugees in the wake of fake news that an activist from the community demanded that they be granted citizenship.
The fake news, attributed to Zafar Ahmad Abdul Ghani, who heads the Myanmar Ethnic Rohingya Human Rights Organisation Malaysia (Merhrom), came following reports that Malaysian authorities had blocked a boat carrying starving Rohingya refugees from landing.
Zafar denied that he demanded citizenship for the refugees but his clarification failed to quell the hostility towards the community.
Fearing for his safety, he has not left his home on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur for nearly a year.
“Today marks one year since false accusations against me in social media platforms on April 21, 2020,” he said in a Twitter post on Wednesday.
“I urgently appeal to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and resettlement countries to reconsider my case for urgent resettlement as I constantly receive threats, harassment and insults. I hope justice prevails.”
Speaking to FMT, Zafar said the hate campaign against him had affected his family and his advocacy work.
“All these consequences to me, my wife and my growing children are unbearable. Malaysia is no longer a safe place for me and my family due to the false accusations against me.”
He urged UNHCR and other relevant parties to look into his resettlement application, adding that his Malaysian wife could not provide him any further protection as she was also living in fear.
Meanwhile, Quinley said that Asean countries must prioritise refugee protection and commit to sheltering those fleeing from the military junta in Myanmar.
“They (Asean countries) should also push the junta to end their attacks and arrests and reverse the coup,” he said.