Myanmar army chief Min Aung Hlaing defies UN calls, defends crackdown on Rohingya

March 27, 2017 9:22 pm

This handout
picture taken and released by the Armed Forces on March 27, 2017
shows Senior General , the commander in chief of the
Myanmar Armed Forces, speaking during a ceremony marking the country’s
72nd Armed Forces Day in Naypyidaw. (Photo by AFP)

Myanmar’s army chief has
defended an ongoing crackdown against the persecuted Rohingya Muslims
minority in Rakhine State after the UN pledged to probe a campaign of
killing and torture by security forces there.

Army chief
Min Aung Hlaing defended the military campaign while speaking to crowds
assembled in the capital Naypyidaw for armed forces day on Monday.
The
military chief branded Rohingya Muslims as illegal immigrants from
Bangladesh or “Bengalis” despite many living there for generations.
“The Bengalis in Rakhine State are not the Myanmar nationalities but the immigrants,” Hlaing said.
Elsewhere
in his remarks, the commander-in-chief of the Myanmar armed forces
blamed Muslims for a series of attacks across the troubled region
on security forces that occurred October last year.
“The terrorist attacks which took place in October 2016 resulted in the political interferences.”
The
remarks come after the top United Nations human rights body on Friday
agreed to send an international fact-finding mission to investigate
widespread allegations of killings, rape and torture by security forces
against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar’s Rakhine state.
Sources say the mission will seek to ensure “full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims.”
However,
the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC)  stopped short of calling for the
establishment of a Commission of Inquiry – the world body’s highest
level investigation – into the situation of the Rohingya despite a call
by Yanghee Lee, the UN’s special rapporteur on rights in Myanmar.
UN investigators believe security forces may have committed crimes against humanity.
Myanmar’s
de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi has, meanwhile, rebuffed the UN probe,
saying any international fact-finding mission “would do more to
inflame, rather than resolve, the issues at this time.”
Rights
groups have cast doubt on the impartiality of several investigative
commissions set up by Suu Kyi to look into the crimes against the
Rohingya.
Myanmar has long faced criticism for its treatment of the more than one million Rohingya who live in Rakhine State.
Since
October 2016, Myanmar’s forces have been carrying out a military
crackdown in Rakhine State, where the Rohingya community is mainly
based, following a raid on a police post that was blamed on
Rohingya-linked militants.

This
screen grab taken on January 4, 2017, from a YouTube video originally
taken by Myanmar Constable Zaw Myo Htike (not pictured) shows policemen
standing guard around Rohingya minority villagers seated on the ground
in the village of Kotankauk during a police area clearance operation on
November 5, 2016. (Photo by AFP)In a report
last month, Reuters cited two UN officials dealing with refugees fleeing
violence as saying that some 1,000 Rohingya Muslims may have been
killed in Myanmar’s army crackdown on the minority group.
At least 75,000 Rohingya have since fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh, according to the UN.
UN
investigators, who interviewed Rohingya escapees in neighboring
Bangladesh, have blamed Myanmar’s government forces for responding with a
campaign of murder, gang rape and arson that they say may amount to
genocide.
Myanmar classifies Rohingya Muslims as stateless or
non-citizens, a status which strips them of the right to education, work
or social services.

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