Myanmar Rohingya crisis: Malaysia says will not withdraw from AFF Suzuki Cup football

Malaysian cabinet has decided against pulling the football team out of the biennial tournament.

Darren Lok
Malaysia will face Myanmar on Saturday Reuters

Malaysian cabinet decided on Friday not to pull the country's football team out of the ongoing AFF Suzuki Cup 2016 tournament over alleged persecution of Rohingya Muslims in the host nation, Myanmar.

There were growing calls from religious leaders and political parties, including the Penang's Parti Amanah Negara, in the muslim-majority nation urging the government to pull the Tigers out of the biennial tournament.

Around 86 people from the Rohingya community in Myanmar's Rakhine state have been killed and 30,000 have been displaced due to the growing tension between the country's military and the civilians from the region, according to the AlJazeera.

Also read: Myanmar Rohingya crisis deepens as Bangladesh blocks fleeing refugees

The long-standing crisis between the minority community and the state military prevailing in Rakhine has also put enormous pressure on Nobel Peace Prize-winning Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who rose to power last year promising action to curb anti-muslim sentiments in the country.

The sections of the society that called for withdrawal said such a step would show Malaysia's intent to stand against "ethnic cleansing" and support human rights. However, the cabinet, resisting pressure from various quarters, confirmed on Friday that Malaysia will continue their campaign in Myanmar.

Notably, the Tigers have already played two matches and will face the hosts in a virtual quarter-final on Saturday in Yangon with group leaders Vietnam al ready sealing a semi-final spot.

"The Cabinet decided today that we should proceed with our match tomorrow," Malaysian Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said, as quoted by the Malay Mail Online.

Also, Asean Football Federation (AFF) general secretary Datuk Seri Azzuddin Ahmad had warned against such a pull out saying the Football Association of Malaysia (FAM) may face heavy Fifa sanctions.

FAM general secretary Datuk Hamidin Amin also voiced against the rumoured withdrawal and said that "government should think of other ways to protest and not make football the scapegoat".