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Regional criticism of Myanmar's Rohingya policy risks ASEAN split

Playing the religious card could trigger divisions between Muslims and Buddhists

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Demonstrators protest against what they say is a crackdown on ethnic Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar, as police stand guard over the Myanmar embassy in Jakarta on Nov. 25.   © Reuters

In early December, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak broke with tradition within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations by publicly hammering Myanmar over its treatment of the Rohingya Muslim community in Rakhine State. A brutal military crackdown there has left nearly 100 people dead, more than 30,000 homeless and prompted more than 10,000 people to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, according to the United Nations.

"We want to tell Aung Sang Suu Kyi enough is enough," Najib said, lashing out at the leader of Myanmar's governing National League for Democracy, de facto head of government and foreign minister. Najib even questioned the legitimacy of Suu Kyi's Nobel Peace Prize, awarded in 1991 for her "non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights" in Myanmar. In recent weeks, his sentiments have been echoed around the world, amid a flurry of criticism on social media and the launch of an online petition to demand withdrawal of her peace prize.

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