Myanmar army chief defends Rakhine crackdown
YANGON: Myanmar’s army chief defended a military crackdown in Rakhine State yesterday after the United Nations pledged to probe claims security forces carried out a campaign of killing and torture against Rohingya Muslims there.
Almost 75,000 people from the persecuted minority have escaped to Bangladesh after the military launched operations in the north of the restive state to find Rohingya militants who raided police border posts in October.
UN investigators believe security forces may have committed crimes against humanity. Last week, the UN Human Rights Council agreed to dispatch an independent international factfinding mission, with a view to “ensuring full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims”.
Myanmar has long faced criticism for its treatment of the more than one million Rohingya who live in Rakhine State, who are rejected as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh or “Bengalis” despite many living there for generations.
Speaking to crowds assembled in the capital for armed forces day, army chief Min Aung Hlaing yesterday defended the military campaign.
“The Bengalis in Rakhine State are not Myanmar nationalities but immigrants,” he said, according to an official translation.
“The terrorist attacks that took place in October last year resulted in the political interferences.”
Myanmar’s civilian government led by Aung San Suu Kyi has also rebuffed the probe, saying any international fact-finding mission “would do more to inflame, rather than resolve, the issues at this time”.
The country’s powerful military until recently ruled Myanmar with an iron fist and built up a notorious reputation for rights abuses, especially when conducting operations against restive ethnic insurgents. AFP