MYAN­MAR LEADER FACES RIS­ING PRES­SURE ON RO­HINGYA

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - NEWS - AFP, APANDREUTERS —RE­PORTS FROM

Myan­mar leader Aung San Suu Kyi faced ris­ing global pres­sure on Tues­day to solve the cri­sis for her na­tion’s dis­placed Ro­hingya Mus­lim mi­nor­ity, meet­ing the UN chief and Amer­ica’s top diplo­mat in the Philip­pines.

UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res said late Mon­day that the un­fold­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis could cause re­gional in­sta­bil­ity and rad­i­cal­iza­tion.

Guter­res met with lead­ers from the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (Asean) on the side­lines of its sum­mit in Manila.

“I can­not hide my deep con­cern with the dra­matic move­ment of hun­dreds of thou­sands of refugees from Myan­mar to Bangladesh,” Guter­res told the Asean lead­ers.

Suu Kyi sat close to him but looked mostly in­stead at a wall screeen show­ing the UN leader.

“The sec­re­tary gen­eral high­lighted that strength­ened ef­forts to en­sure hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­cess, safe, dignified, vol­un­tary and sus­tained re­turns, as well as true rec­on­cil­i­a­tion be­tween com­mu­ni­ties, would be es­sen­tial,” a UN state­ment said later, sum­ma­riz­ing Guter­res’ com­ments to Suu Kyi.

Meet­ing with Tiller­son

Guter­res’ com­ments came hours be­fore Suu Kyi sat down with US Sec­re­tary of State Rex Tiller­son on the side­lines of the East Asia Sum­mit in Manila.

Washington has been cau­tious in its state­ments on the sit­u­a­tion in Myan­mar’s Rakhine state, and has avoided out­right crit­i­cism of Suu Kyi.

Sup­port­ers say she must nav­i­gate a path be­tween ou­trage abroad and pop­u­lar feel­ing in a ma­jor­ity Bud­dhist coun­try where most peo­ple be­lieve the Ro­hingya are in­ter­lop­ers.

At a photo op­por­tu­nity at the top of her meet­ing with Tiller­son, Suu Kyi ig­nored a jour­nal­ist who asked if the Ro­hingya were cit­i­zens of Myan­mar, for­merly Burma.

At a later ap­pear­ance af­ter the meet­ing, Tiller­son who is headed to Myan­mar on Wed­nes­day was asked by re­porters if he “had a mes­sage for Burmese lead­ers.”

He ap­par­ently ig­nored the ques­tion, re­ply­ing only: “Thank you,” ac­cord­ing to a pool re­port of the en­counter.

Suu Kyi as­sur­ance

The con­ser­va­tive Asean bloc re­fused to dis­cuss the cri­sis in a strong, crit­i­cal man­ner, but Philip­pine pres­i­den­tial spokesper­son Harry Roque said at least two lead­ers raised the is­sue on Mon­day.

Roque said Suu Kyi as­sured other Asean lead­ers on Mon­day that her gov­ern­ment was im­ple­ment­ing the rec­om­men­da­tions of a com­mis­sion headed by for­mer UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Kofi An­nan.

He said Suu Kyi had pledged that repa­tri­a­tion of the dis­placed peo­ple would be­gin within three weeks af­ter Myan­mar signed a mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing with Bangladesh. The mem­o­ran­dum was signed on Oct. 24.

Roque said Suu Kyi gave no fur­ther de­tails.

Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau told South­east Asian heads of state on Tues­day that he had asked his special en­voy to en­gage in diplo­matic ef­forts to find ways in which Canada can help re­solve the Ro­hingya cri­sis.

Trudeau called for a “sus­tain­able and just solution” to the cri­sis, stress­ing the im­por­tance of rec­om­men­da­tions and the fi­nal re­port of the An­nan com­mis­sion to help chart the path to­ward a peace­ful res­o­lu­tion.

More than 600,000 Ro­hingya have flooded into Bangladesh since late Au­gust, and now live in the squalor of the world’s big­gest refugee camp.

The cri­sis erupted af­ter Ro­hingya rebels at­tacked po­lice posts in Rakhine, trig­ger­ing a mil­i­tary crack­down that saw hun­dreds of vil­lages re­duced to ashes and sparked a mas­sive ex­o­dus.

The United Na­tions says the Myan­mar mil­i­tary is en­gaged in a “co­or­di­nated and sys­tem­atic” at­tempt to purge the re­gion of Ro­hingya in what amounts to a “text­book ex­am­ple of eth­nic cleans­ing.”

Fol­low­ing its first of­fi­cial in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the cri­sis, Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary pub­lished a re­port this week in which it cleared it­self of any abuses.

But Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary heav­ily re­stricts ac­cess to the re­gion by in­de­pen­dent jour­nal­ists and aid groups, and ver­i­fi­ca­tion of events on the ground is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble.

Days ear­lier, the mil­i­tary re­placed Maj. Gen. Maung Maung Soe, who was in charge of the op­er­a­tion that drove more than 600,000 Ro­hingya Mus­lims to flee to Bangladesh.

Harsh crit­i­cism

Suu Kyi, a for­mer democ­racy ac­tivist, does not have the power to stop Myan­mar’s mil­i­tary but has de­fended it from international con­dem­na­tion, draw­ing harsh crit­i­cism and dam­ag­ing her im­age as a democ­racy ac­tivist and hu­man rights cam­paigner.

Rights groups have lam­basted her for fail­ing to speak up for the Ro­hingya or con­demn fes­ter­ing anti-Mus­lim sen­ti­ment in the coun­try.

Sup­port­ers say she does not have the power to stop the pow­er­ful mil­i­tary, which had ruled the coun­try for decades un­til her party came to power fol­low­ing 2015 elec­tions.

—NIÑO JE­SUS ORBETA/AFP/ REUTERS

RE­GIONAL IM­PACT UNSec­re­tary Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res (left) says the hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in­volv­ing Ro­hingya Mus­lims (mid­dle) may cause re­gional in­sta­bil­ity and rad­i­cal­iza­tion in a meet­ing with Asean lead­ers, in­clud­ing Myan­mar’s Aung San Suu Kyi (right).

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