Malaysia have confirmed their decision to cancel two friendly football matches with Myanmar Under-22 in December as a sign of protest against the alleged ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya ethnic Muslims in Myanmar.
The two matches were scheduled on 9 and 12 December, which have now been called out as confirmed by a team spokesperson. He declined to be identified as the ongoing crisis in the Southeast Asian nation has left several thousands of people displaced, forcing them to flee to Bangladesh. "It was a political decision because of the Rohingya issue," the spokesperson told Reuters.
According to the United Nations, over 30,000 people have already fled the region after violence escalated in the northern Rakhine state in October. There are reports that security forces are involved in clashes against the civilians, which has resulted in a humanitarian crisis.
Malaysia is a Muslim-majority nation and were unhappy with the manner in which Myanmar has been handling the situation the Rohingya ethnic minorities. They had earlier threatened to pull out of the AFF Suzuki Cup, which was co-hosted by Myanmar and Phillipines.
However, Malaysia decided against pulling out of the tournament after Asean Football Federation (AFF) general secretary Datuk Seri Azzuddin Ahmad warned they could face Fifa sanctions if they withdrew from the Suzuki Cup.
"Please don't bring football into this. There are many other ways that Malaysia could show their protest if they wanted to. "It will be seen as government interference and Fifa does not tolerate this," Azzuddin Ahmad explained.
"A blanket ban on football by Fifa will disrupt many things. Football in Malaysia will not be able to go on. There will be no football at the SEA Games and even Malaysian clubs will not be able to participate in any competition."
Malaysia were knocked out in the group stages of the Suzuki Cup and were unsuccessful in pulling out from the tournament. However, they managed to do so for the upcoming Under-22 friendly fixtures against Myanmar.