Claims of no Rohingya atrocities a ‘whitewash’
YANGON: Amnesty International has poured scorn on a Myanmar military investigation into alleged atrocities against Rohingya Muslims.
The human rights group branded it a “whitewash” and called for UN and independent investigators to be allowed into the country.
More than 600 000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh since late August, driven out by a counter-insurgency clearance operation in Rakhine state that a top UN official has called a classic case of “ethnic cleansing”.
Accusations of organised mass rape and other crimes against humanity were levelled 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 claimed innocence and on Monday posted the findings of an internal investigation on the Facebook page of its commander in chief, Senior General 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’s self-exoneration came as US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson prepared to visit Myanmar today for talks with the country’s leaders.
Tillerson and Aung San Suu Kyi, the head of a less than two-yearold civilian administration that has no control over the military, met in Manila on Monday, where they were attending a regional summit.
With US senators in Washington pressing to impose economic sanctions and travel restrictions targeting the military and its business interests, Tillerson is expected to deliver a stern message to Myanmar’s generals, while supporting the transition to democracy.
Suu Kyi discussed the Rohingya crisis with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres during the SouthEast Asian summit in Manila.
Guterres, addressing the summit, described the exodus of refugees from Myanmar as a “worrying escalation in a protracted tragedy” and a potential source of instability and radicalisation in the region.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also had an “extended conversation” with Suu Kyi about the plight of Rohingya Muslims.
While world leaders wrung their hands, thousands of Rohingya remained stranded in Myanmar, on beaches around the mouth of the Naf River, hoping to find a boat to cross to Bangladesh.
More than 200 have drowned making the attempt in the past few months and Bangladesh border guards have clamped down on fishermen Rohingya were paying to take them across.
With fewer boats available, desperate Rohingya have been stringing together rafts from bamboo and plastic canisters. In the past week, 1200 people crossed over on such flimsy rafts, according to police.
Suu Kyi’s failure to speak out over the Rohingya’s plight has widely damaged the Nobel peace prize winner’s reputation as a stateswoman.
But many diplomats believe Myanmar’s fragile transition to democracy after 49 years of military rule would be jeopardised if she publicly criticised the armed forces.
Rohingya refugees walk in Teknaf after crossing the Naf River with an improvised raft to reach Bangladesh this week.