Claims of no Ro­hingya atroc­i­ties a ‘white­wash’

The Star Early Edition - - WORLD -

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.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

Ro­hingya refugees walk in Tek­naf af­ter cross­ing the Naf River with an im­pro­vised raft to reach Bangladesh this week.

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