ASEAN draft statement skips over Rohingya crisis in Myanmar


As new accounts emerged of atrocities in Rakhine state, where government forces claim to be targeting "terrorists", Downing Street called on Myanmar's government to permit access for aid agencies, reports CNN.

Pramila Patten, the United Nations 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.

A draft of the statement to be issued after a Southeast Asian summit makes no mention of the exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar's Rakhine state following a military crackdown that has been described by the United Nations as ethnic cleansing.

AI, on the other hand, said with more than 600,000 women, men and children having fled Rakhine State in recent months fearing for their lives, there is overwhelming evidence that the military has murdered and raped Rohingya and burned their villages to the ground.

"The Burmese military's absurd effort to absolve itself of mass atrocities underscores why an independent worldwide investigation is needed to establish the facts and identify those responsible", Brad Adams of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on Tuesday.

Nyan Win, spokesman for the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) party, downplayed the lack of mention of the Rohingya crisis in the ASEAN document.

However, it is unusual for figures such as him, who are against the Rohingya, to be arrested in Myanmar. "Those responsible for abuses must be held accountable", Adams said.

Washington, D.C. -based Refugees International called on Tillerson on Tuesday to recognize the Rohingya crisis as ethnic cleansing, a term that the USA government has so far refused to use.

A security crackdown launched in the northern part of Rakhine on August 25 has led to more than 617,000 Rohingya Muslims fleeing to neighboring Bangladesh.

The military's report came ahead of U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit on Wednesday and growing calls in Washington for economic and travel sanctions against the military and its interests.

"Once again, Myanmar's military is trying to sweep serious violations against the Rohingya under the carpet", said James Gomez, Amnesty International's Regional Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific in a statement yesterday.

"This trip can not become an endorsement of the current state of affairs in Myanmar", he said.

Myanmar authorities gave Bangladesh a list with the names of 1,000 people deemed terrorists during a six-day conference on security and law enforcement between the Myanmar Police Force and Border Guard Bangladesh, which began on Monday in Myanmar's capital Naypyidaw.

Speaking in September, Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Abul Hasan Mahmood Ali said around 3,000 Rohingya had been killed in the crackdown.

Reported by Khin Khin Ei, and Win Ko Ko Latt for RFA's Myanmar Service. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.