KUALA LUMPUR, June 9 — Malaysia has terminated operations of its field hospital in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, that treats Rohingya refugees, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Senior Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said 56 members of the Malaysian Armed Forces were recalled home when the coronavirus pandemic hit last January.
“Operations of the Malaysian field hospital in Cox’s Bazar have ended,” Ismail Sabri told a press conference today.
The Health Ministry and the Malaysian Armed Forces received a Perak royal award in July last year for setting up the Malaysian Field Hospital in Cox’s Bazar that had been in operation since December 2017. The Malaysian Armed Forces took over the hospital from the Health Ministry in March 2018.
Then-Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said last November that the Cabinet had agreed to extend operations of the field hospital until December 2021, which would receive workers from the Health Ministry and volunteer doctors from non-government organisations this year onward.
Then-Deputy Defence Minister Liew Chin Tong reportedly said 81,698 patients had been treated at the hospital as of November 2019.
Ismail Sabri also said today that Malaysia would no longer accept Rohingya refugees and that the Foreign Ministry would discuss with Bangladesh on deporting them back to Bangladesh if they had fled Cox’s Bazar.
“Maybe we’ll ask that they be sent to Bhasan Island in Bangladesh, which is a new place that the Bangladeshi government set up specially for the Rohingya.”
He added that the Foreign Ministry would discuss with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) on repatriating Rohingya refugees to another country.
“Some countries supposedly claim that we’re not humanitarian. So we’ll ask them to accept [the Rohingya refugees] lah,” Ismail Sabri said.
“Many countries are signatories to the UN Refugee Convention. So why give it to us? They should take these Rohingya refugees. We can’t accept them anymore.”
Malaysia is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention 1951. Berita Harian reported Monday that a boat carrying over 216 Rohingya refugees, which was detected near Langkawi Island, was intentionally damaged. The authorities allowed the boat to be brought to a jetty in Langkawi and detained 269 undocumented immigrants.