By Veena Babulal, New Straits Times

KUALA LUMPUR: Driving the Rohingyas away from our shores and forcing them to spend up to two months at sea is inhumane, said Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

“What we should have done instead was to supply them with food and fuel so they can go to other countries or return to Myanmar,” he said in a posting on his blog today.

Dr Mahathir was drawing on reports that 60 Rohingyas died on a vessel crammed with hundreds of boat people stranded in the Bay of Bengal for more than two months.

The boat discovered by Bangladesh coast guards had reportedly been made to turn back from Malaysia and Thailand.

In the wake of the increasing xenophobic and hate campaigns on social media towards the community, the former prime minister also urged Malaysians not to despise the Rohingyas who were persecuted in their home country.

He instead said Malaysians should criticise Myanmar’s state counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and reject trade with the nation.

Dr Mahathir, who has been a vocal critic of the regime said Malaysia also had to expose the nation’s atrocities to the world.

“We have to urge the United Nations to take action against Myanmar. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation also has to take action and end Myanmar’s atrocities.”

The former premier however said he understood why “Malays had grown to hate the community”.

“In the beginning they were sympathetic towards the community and the Rohingyas chose Malaysia due to this. But now that their numbers have become so great, that sympathy has become animosity.

“Indeed, we have granted asylum to so many of them. They should be going to other countries and others should also allow them in.”

On April 17 the armed forces managed to cripple an attempt to smuggle some 200 Rohingyas into Langkawi. The vessel was however provided with food supplies before being escorted out of Malaysian waters.