Malaysians will protest Rohingyan plight with rage, then they forget


A child from Kampung Bukit Malut, Langkawi. (Photo by Zan Azlee)

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Malaysians will protest Rohingyan plight with rage, then they forget
By Zan Azlee

IT was only a few months ago when Malaysians grew livid and disgusted with what was happening to the Rohingya in Burma, accusing the Burmese government of not only oppressing the people but even of ethnic cleansing as well.

They carried out protests, chanted and fumed at the Burmese government. Even the Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak got in the act and attended a huge rally at a stadium organised by his ruling party.

Why a prime minister and his administration would need to organise a demonstration leaves a big question mark since they are in a position to create policies and use diplomatic ties to act. But that is not the point of this article.

The point of this article is to question what has happened following all the angry protests. It seems that as the trend of protesting in support of the Rohingya slowly fizzles out, the passion exuded by most of the Malaysian people followed suit.

The Rohingya is an ethnic group from the west of Burma, or Rakhine state, who are known as stateless people and have suffered oppression from the government for decades. They have been denied citizenship, persecuted, tortured and killed.

Hundreds of thousands of them have fled Burma and are now refugees all over the world. Malaysia alone has an estimated 56,000 of them within the country’s borders. And these are only those who have been officially identified.

The unfortunate situation is the fact that Malaysia does not recognise Rohingyan refugees as they are considered illegal immigrants who get detained and deported back to where they are being persecuted. And this is why the protest by the Najib’s administration seems without point.

And what about the fuming and angry Malaysians? What has happened to their fuming anger? If it isn’t a trending hashtag on social media, then it would be a case of out of sight and out of mind. These people are all resuming their normal lives until the Rohingya issue becomes trending again.

But is this really a surprise? As a Malaysian, I have realised that Malaysians can be pretty forgetful. It isn’t just with the case of the Rohingya. This is also similar with their feelings about the plight of the Palestinians.

Every now and then, when the issue of the Palestinians — who have suffered so much in the hands of the Zionist agenda in their own homeland — starts to become popular in the public sphere, Malaysians will start fuming with anger.

They will organise big protests, wear brightly coloured bandanas, carry placards with angry slogans and scream obscenities at the perpetrators. They have stickers on their cars in support of Palestine and the Palestinians.

They get so angry and passionate about the plight that they even boycott brands and products that are associated with the Jews, such as the fast food and coffee franchises like McDonald’s and Starbucks. These outlets will see a significant decline in sales… but only for a few days.

After that, Malaysians start flooding the restaurants and cafes again to get their fix of Big Macs and grande lattes. It’s as if it was all just for show for a couple of days. Then they forget again and resume patronising and stop protesting.

Similar to the protest by the Malaysian government against its Burmese counterpart, Malaysians don’t realise that their boycott of brands like McDonald’s and Starbucks is pointless since it causes local businesses to suffer losses, which in turn, affects local employees.

The point is the fact that so many Malaysians only pay attention to social issues when it is popular and trendy. Then they forget.

They are all so silent because the season has phased out. But I doubt that this is a problem exclusive to Malaysia. It is a problem faced around the world. As humans, we don’t really need to pay more attention to such issues. What we need to do is to pay proper attention.

[This article was originally written for and published at AsianCorrespondent.com]

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