Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Pence says Myanmar's handling of Rohingya 'without excuse'

An aerial view of the Hla Phoe Khaung transit camp for returning Rohingya An aerial view of the Hla Phoe Khaung transit camp for returning Rohingya
Ellis Copeland | 15 November, 2018, 18:26

The offer has come from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at a meeting with Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

More than 700,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh since past year, when Myanmar's armed forces, backed by Buddhist extremist mobs, intensified a crackdown that had already been underway against the Muslim community in Myanmar's Rakhine State.

It wasn't your typical bilateral meeting here at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit, a three-day confab of world leaders with interests in the region.

Mahathir said Nobel Peace Prize laureate Suu Kyi was "trying to defend the indefensible" in justifying violence by Myanmar security forces against Rohingya in Rakhine state.

In response, Aung San Suu Kyi said her government is "in a better position to explain to you what is happening and how we see things panning out".

The strengthening of rhetoric in the draft was flagged earlier this year by Singapore Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan who said his ASEAN peers had urged Myanmar to give the inquiry commission a full mandate to hold those responsible accountable.

"In a way, we can say we understand our country better than any other country does", she said.

Dozens of Rohingya Muslim families have escaped from refugee camps in Bangladesh to avoid being repatriated to Myanmar, Reuters and local Bangladeshi newspapers report.

"Both sides wanted to complete the return of 2,260 Rohingyas first, given all of them are willing to go back", the official said.

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In August, the United Nations released a report detailing the military crackdown with genocidal intent, which has the huge numbers of Rohingya Muslims into Bangladesh.

"The army is in every corner of the Jamtoli and Hakimpara camps, sitting and checking people and not letting them move between camps", one Rohingya refugee in the Jamtoli camp said.

Bangladesh says it will start repatriating refugees from an initial group of 2,260 from Thursday despite warnings the Rohingya face nearly certain persecution in Myanmar. "They had a very candid exchange of views on that".

"But to be truly voluntary, refugees need alternatives - including to remain in Bangladesh with asylum protections and to resettle in a third country".

The UNHCR this week issued a statement saying it would not condone or support a protracted internment in northern Rakhine, a poor and densely populated state in Myanmar that contains the highest concentration of Rohingya in the country.

"We are witnessing terror and panic among those Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar who are at imminent risk of being returned to Myanmar against their will", Michelle...

The two countries had originally agreed to begin repatriating Rohingya last January, but that was called off amid concerns among aid workers and the Rohingya that their safety wasn't guaranteed.

"As it stands, returning Rohingya to Rakhine State means returning them to a situation where their rights will be routinely violated", says Laura Haigh, Myanmar researcher for Amnesty International.

ASEAN's Muslim-majority members - Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei - tend to take the toughest line on the Rohingya question, while Myanmar has close regional allies in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam.

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