Malaysia has expressed concern over the possibility of Rohingya refugees being recruited as Islamic State (IS) terrorists unless the issue of refugees is tackled seriously.
Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said the ministry took a serious view of the matter and felt that the problem of Rohingya refugees should be immediately addressed by the United Nations before more refugees got trapped in the IS ideology.
“I see what happens in Palestine when the people are driven out by Israel. They are everywhere and find ways to fight back and return to their homeland.
“Some of them (Palestinians) eventually adopt the IS ideology and become suicide bombers,” he said at a press conference on the International Association of Counter-Terrorism and Security Professionals (IACSP) in Kuala Lumpur today.
Mohamad said the same thing could happen to the Rohingya in Rakhine who were being subjected to ethnic cleansing.
“I fear this (recruitment of Rohingya as IS terrorists) can happen because they are in a desperate situation and can accept any view, including the IS propaganda,” he said.
Mohamad said he hoped that the UN would play a more effective role to enable the Rohingya to return to their homeland.
Elaborating on the matter, Bukit Aman Special Branch Counter-Terrorism Division principal assistant director Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay confirmed the existence of elements of terrorism among the Rohingya refugees in the country.
He said there were four cases of Rohingya refugees involved in IS between 2015 and 2016.
“Although their number involved in IS is not big, it goes to show that they can be easily influenced by the IS propaganda. We have prosecuted them and sent them back to their homeland,” he said.
Ayob Khan said that besides IS, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) terrorist group was detected to be actively recruiting new members from among the Rohingya refugees in this country.
He said intelligence showed that ARSA operated in the Southeast Asian region.
“We are monitoring to ensure that Malaysia does not become an ARSA base to recruit Rohingya refugees to get involved in IS,” he said.
Ayob Khan also said that 95 per cent of IS members were recruited through the social media.