South-East Asia could "pay the price" of Isis supporters seeking to exploit the persecution of the Rohingya Muslim minority, Malaysia's Defence Minister has warned.

Datuk Seri Hishammuddin cautioned that Isis, which has been seeking to establish a bigger foothold in the region, could use the crisis to recruit members of the Rohingya community who were left "vulnerable and without a choice".

He told the New Straits Times: "We cannot leave them (the Rohingya) desperate and wanting, because if they are, and they turn to these groups, countries in this region would have to pay the price."

The warning comes as Rohingya refugees continue to flee a crackdown by the Burmese Army, which human rights groups have accused of burning down villages and killing thousands of civilians since the end of August.


Over the past two weeks an estimated 370,000 refugees have poured across the Bangladeshi border to take shelter in squalid refugee camps.

At the request of Britain and Sweden, the United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on the crisis.

Muslim-majority Malaysia, which already hosts more than 100,000 Rohingya refugees from previous crises and this week offered to take in even more - has been warning for months about the risk that Islamists could turn the plight of the Rohingya into a jihadi rallying cry.

Malaysia is already on edge after hundreds of Isis-affiliated militants invaded the southern city of Marawi in the Philippines, a regional neighbour. The two countries have pledged, along with nearby Indonesia, to step up sea patrols to search for extremists.

According to the Malaysian think-tank Iman Research, Malaysian militants had already recruited Rohingya during the last mass exodus of the minority last October, and dispatched them to the Philippines for training.

In January, Najib Razak, the Malaysian Prime Minister, told the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation that violence against the Rohingya had fuelled an outflow of refugees that could destabilise the region, warning that Isis (Islamic State) would infiltrate the group if the violence did not stop.

Ayob Khan Mydin, his top counter-terrorism official, later warned that extremists had already set their sights on Burma, reporting that the authorities had detained an Indonesian man who had planned to travel there to carry out a revenge terrorist attack.

Yesterday, Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh's Prime Minister, toured refugee camps and urged Burma to take back hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims.


"My personal message is very clear, that they should consider this situation with the eyes of humanity," she told the BBC.