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National Security 101: Rohingya’s Malaysian Gamble – Once In, Cannot Chase Them Out

Rohingya Refugee Boat Sea Intrusion

According to UNHCR, there are about 179,570 refugees and asylum-seekers registered with UNHCR in Malaysia as of the end of May 2021. Out of this rather understated number, there are about 102,950 Rohingyas and this does not include the thousands more that keep sneaking into the country illegally. They already started to become a national headache and a serious threat to our national security. Image source: FMT

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Malaysian Constraint

After lying low after their demands for a slice of space, citizenship and other equal demands (although some claimed it was faked) for their community in Malaysia last year, these illegal Rohingya immigrants are in the news again for the wrong reasons:-

Malaysia could not deport ethnic Rohingya refugees being held here as no other country including Myanmar was willing to accept them, said Immigration director-general Datuk Khairul Dzaimee Daud. In an interview with Sinar Harian, Khairul said this also meant the Rohingya would continue to see Malaysia as their number one destination when fleeing Myanmar.

“Since 2019, all Rohingya refugees who have been detained are being held at Immigration detention depots all across the country. “There are currently 1,998 refugees in our detention depots right now,” he told Sinar Harian.

Khairul was responding to a report by Sinar Harian last friday on a Rohingya refugee who paid RM10,000 to an agent or syndicate to enter the country illegally. On June 1, Khairul said that all Rohingya refugees held in detention depots will not be sent back to Myanmar as the country is reluctant to take them back.

He explained that even though they are undocumented migrants, Malaysia could not forcefully repatriate them if their home country of Myanmar refused to accept them back.


What does this mean to the Rohingyas?

Knowing that once they are safely inside the country, there was no way they can be deported back even though they are caught. And given the cramp, unsafe environment back in refugee camps along the Myanmar borders, they may opt for better condition of our detention centres.

For the luckier ones, all they need to do is to reach Rohingya majority areas like Selayang and they can just go undetected from the authorities, probably hidden by refugee loving NGOs and Rohingyas holding UNHCR cards and then emerge to work (some exploited) and earn some money providing for more of their family members to make the perilous sea journey from Bangladesh.

Rohingya Selayang Roadblock

This is a photo taken back in 2018 during Rohingya’s Aidiladha celebrations in Selayang – just see how they can just conquer the whole road that is usually busy with traffic for prayers. By now there are more of them which means they need more space for their lifestyle. Do you think they will just leave this luxury and leave the country on their own? Image source: Astro Awani

Why Malaysia Is Desirable?

I think we shoot ourselves in the leg in 2016 when some politicians eyeing Muslim supports for the upcoming elections went overboard with their support for Rohingyas with a specific notion of supporting Muslim brotherhood.

Prime Minister Najib Razak and PAS president Abdul Hadi Awang joined hands across the political divide yesterday in a show of solidarity not just for the Rohingyas suffering in Myanmar, but between Malaysia’s two largest Malay Muslim parties.

Close to 10,000 people were gathered at the Titiwangsa Stadium in Kuala Lumpur to protest against what the Malaysian government has described as “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya minority in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

They consisted of leaders and members of the ruling Umno party and opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), as well as Muslim Rohingya refugees, who sat and stood side by side chanting “Allahu akbar”, meaning “God is Great”.


What kind of message that we sent to the whole world by having this large gathering which included top politicians in the country and included the Prime Minister of the country?

What kind of message that we sent to desperate Rohingyas waiting at Myanmar borders? Does it basically mean we rolled up the red carpet to them to come to the country?

Rohingya Refugee Countries

Is It Too Late To Send Right Message?

Interestingly after our borders being tightened since last year, we have this coming directly from a government agency:-

Amid a storm of backlash towards their treatment of migrant nationals under the guise of curbing the spread of Covid-19, the Immigration Department has again managed to commit questionable acts, the latest being a post they shared on Facebook advocating anti-Rohingya sentiments.

The post shared on the Department’s official Facebook page includes a picture depicting maritime and aerial defence assets plastered against a background of stormy clouds, surrounding three uniformed personnel from the Royal Malaysia Police, the Armed Forces, and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.

A caption on the picture written in Malay reads “Migran etnik Rohingya kedatangan anda tidak diundang”, which translates to, “Ethnic Rohingya migrants, your arrival is unwelcomed”.

The original post was uploaded onto the official Facebook page of the National Task Force (NTF), a multi-agency unit tasked with enforcing the country’s closed borders amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

It was accompanied by a rather uninviting and stern caption.

“Ethnic Rohingya migrants are reminded that their arrival is uninvited and was never allowed.

“Masterminds and syndicates involved will be tracked down in combating cross border crimes as well as other crimes,” read the caption on NTF’s page.


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Some pro-refugees, pro-Rohingyas NGOs of course have raised their objections on this stern mindset and warnings to the illegal immigrants and those who been protecting these illegal immigrants in the country. However, after sending the wrong message that Rohingyas are welcomed into the country, it is high time that we send them the right message that illegal intrusions are not welcomed and will be dealt with strictly.

Last Say

Until the situation in Myanmar improves to a point that these Rohingyas can go back OR if another country will take them in large numbers, Malaysia needs to be persistent in its actions to make it the least desirable place for these Rohingyas to travel from their confirmed camps in Bangladesh and Myanmar borders.

For this, it is not enough that we only strengthen the borders so that no illegal immigrant boats slip in but we also need to start to aggressively arrest these illegal immigrants who are already in the country and put them in dedicated detention centres. And when time permits, deport them back to Myanmar or other countries willing to take them in.

Yes, these detention centres will put an additional financial burden on the taxpayers’ money to house and feed them for an unforeseeable future. Additional steps also need to be taken to minimise the spread of infectious viruses. But this action will not only send the right message to potential intruders but also curtail their movement within the country

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