Tiller­son to press Myanmar on un­rest

Jerusalem Post - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS - • By SI­MON CAMERON-MOORE and YIMOU LEE

YAN­GON (Reuters) – US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son will stress the need to halt vi­o­lence and sta­bi­lize Rakhine State when he meets the head of Myanmar’s mil­i­tary on Wed­nes­day in a bid to stem the Ro­hingya refugee cri­sis, a se­nior State Depart­ment of­fi­cial said.

More than 600,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims have fled to Bangladesh since late Au­gust, driven out by a coun­terin­sur­gency clear­ance op­er­a­tion in Rakhine State. A top UN of­fi­cial has called the Myanmar mil­i­tary’s op­er­a­tion a text­book case of “eth­nic cleans­ing.”

At­tend­ing an East Asia sum­mit in Manila on Tues­day, Tiller­son met Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose less than two-year-old civil­ian ad­min­is­tra­tion shares power with the mil­i­tary and has no con­trol over its gen­er­als.

He will meet Suu Kyi again in the Myanmar cap­i­tal of Naypy­itaw on Wed­nes­day, and hold sep­a­rate talks with the head of the armed forces, Se­nior-Gen. Min Aung Hlaing.

Asked what ap­proach Tiller­son would take with Myanmar’s army chief, the State Depart­ment of­fi­cial told jour­nal­ists in a brief­ing by tele­con­fer­ence, that the fo­cus would be on restor­ing peace in Rakhine.

“We are fo­cus­ing on try­ing to sta­bi­lize ar­eas in north­ern Rakhine so that peo­ple can re­turn there, stop­ping the vi­o­lence, mak­ing sure that mil­i­tary would pro­tect all pop­u­la­tions in that area equally and that they con­duct a cred­i­ble investigation that leads to ac­count­abil­ity,” said the of­fi­cial, who was with Tiller­son in Manila, but de­clined to be iden­ti­fied.

The of­fi­cial said the con­se­quences for the coun­try, also known as Burma, if it failed to re­spond to the cri­sis with ac­count­abil­ity could be part of the con­ver­sa­tion with the mil­i­tary leader.

“Burma made a lot of progress and we would not want to see that progress re­versed,” the of­fi­cial added.

US sen­a­tors in Wash­ing­ton are press­ing for eco­nomic sanc­tions and travel re­stric­tions tar­get­ing the mil­i­tary and its busi­ness in­ter­ests.

Ac­cu­sa­tions of or­ga­nized mass rape and other crimes against hu­man­ity were lev­eled at the Myanmar mil­i­tary on Sun­day by another se­nior UN of­fi­cial, who had toured camps in Bangladesh where Ro­hingya refugees have taken shelter.

Pramila Pat­ten, the UN spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the sec­re­tary-gen­eral on sex­ual vi­o­lence in con­flict, said she would raise ac­cu­sa­tions against the Myanmar mil­i­tary with the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court in the Hague.

The mil­i­tary, known as the Tat­madaw, has con­sis­tently protested its in­no­cence, and on Mon­day it posted the find­ings of an in­ter­nal investigation on the Face­book page of Min Aung Hlaing.

It said it had found no in­stances where its sol­diers had shot and killed Ro­hingya vil­lagers, raped women or tor­tured pris­on­ers. It de­nied that se­cu­rity forces had torched Ro­hingya vil­lages or used “ex­ces­sive force.”

The mil­i­tary said that, while 376 “ter­ror­ists” were killed, there were no deaths of in­no­cent peo­ple.

Hu­man rights groups have poured scorn on the mil­i­tary’s investigation, brand­ing it a “white­wash” and call­ing for UN and in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tors to be al­lowed into the coun­try.

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