Red Cross hails Malaysia for 50 years of humanitarian aid support

KUALA LUMPUR: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has commended Malaysia’s track record for the past 50 years in protecting and assisting victims of war and other violence, besides actively promoting International Humanitarian Law (IHL).

ICRC regional director for Asia and the Pacific, Christine Cipolla, said the world will not forget the episode where hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese refugees were hosted by Malaysia at Pulau Bidong in Terengganu from the 1970s to the 1990s before they were resettled in other countries.

“The ICRC supported the Malaysian Red Crescent Society (MRCS) in providing mailing and tracing services for Vietnamese boat people to keep in touch with their family members back home,” she said in an exclusive interview at the ICRC office here in conjunction with the organisation’s 50th anniversary in Malaysia.

Cipolla, who is based in Geneva, Switzerland, said that in 2004, the ICRC had received assistance from the Malaysian authorities to help the Acehnese community in Malaysia to restore family links back in Aceh which was affected following the Boxing Day tsunami.

She added that in 2009, a contribution of RM1mil to ICRC’s million for ICRC’s prostheses programme in Gaza was raised by the Malaysian people and government through MRCS.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, the ICRC supported the efforts of MRCS in its vaccination campaigns with the My Sukarela app, a platform that allows volunteers to offer their assistance to organisations in need of voluntary services.

“Through the app, Malaysia’s first for volunteer work, we hope to help promote volunteerism in Malaysia, inspiring individuals and corporations to contribute to humanitarian works,” she said.

ICRC’s activities in Malaysia can be traced back to World War II.

Its permanent presence here was officially established after a letter from then prime minister Tun Abdul Razak in November 1972, approving the establishment of an ICRC regional office which was formally opened the following year in March.

Cipolla also said Malaysian authorities have been consistently promoting and integrating IHL in training syllabuses for the military, besides disseminating it among the people, with the first course organised with the Malaysian Armed Forces in 1988.

“The Centre of Military and International Humanitarian Law (CoMIHL) was formed at the National Defence University of Malaysia in August 2017 following a strategic partnership between the ICRC and the university to promote and disseminate knowledge of military law and IHL among the Armed Forces here and the region’s wider military and legal communities.

“Malaysians should be proud that the country has the first-ever regional centre for military and IHL in the region,” she said.

Malaysia acceded to the Geneva Conventions in 1962, making 2022 the 60th anniversary of its accession to the core treaties of IHL.

Throughout the years, Malaysia has been party to many key treaties of IHL such as the Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property, the Convention on the Prohibition of Biological Weapons, the anti-personnel landmines convention, the convention prohibiting chemical weapons and the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. – Bernama