Myanmar rejects UN probe findings of Rohingya 'genocide'

  • 29 Aug 2018

Myanmar rejected the findings of a UN investigation alleging genocide by its military against the Rohingya, after the US and other countries joined growing calls for them to face justice.

Rohingya Muslims arrive to the Bangladeshi side of the Naf River after crossing the border from Myanmar, in Palang Khali, Bangladesh, October 16, 2017. ( Reuters )

Myanmar on Wednesday rejected the findings of a UN investigation alleging genocide by its military against the Rohingya, after the US and other countries joined growing calls for them to face justice.

In a UN Security Council session on Tuesday, several countries —including the US, Britain, France and Sweden — called for Myanmar's military leaders to be held accountable.

On Monday, the UN probe detailed evidence of genocide and crimes against humanity "perpetrated on a massive scale" against the Rohingya, including acts of rape, sexual violence and mass killings.

The country's government says the allegations are false — and Myanmar has 'zero tolerance' for any human rights violations.

"We didn't allow the FFM (the UN Fact-Finding Mission) to enter into Myanmar, that's why we don't agree and accept any resolutions made by the Human Rights Council," said government spokesman Zaw Htay, according to Wednesday's state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper.

He pointed to the formation of Myanmar's own Independent Commission of Enquiry, which he said was set up to respond to "false allegations made by the UN agencies and other international communities".

The country has "zero tolerance for human rights violations," Zaw Htay said, but he added that "strong evidence" including records and dates of any alleged abuses must be provided before investigations are undertaken.

The government would take "legal action against any violation of human rights," he said.

Zaw Htay also lashed out at Facebook for shutting down the pages of Myanmar's army chief and other top military brass on Monday, saying the move could hamper the government's efforts at "national reconciliation".

The UN meeting was one of the most high-profile to date to address the crisis and featured graphic testimony from actress Cate Blanchett, who visited the refugee camps in May as a goodwill ambassador. 

“I am a mother and I saw my own children in the eyes of every single refugee child that I met. I saw myself in every parent,” she told the Security Council. 

“How can any mother endure seeing her child thrown into a fire? Their experiences will never leave me.”

TRT World's Nicole Johnston reports.

Myanmar called on to cooperate 

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the Human Rights Council's report issued yesterday found patterns of gross human rights violations and the abuses committed by the security forces in Myanmar, and there can be no excuse for delaying the search for dignified solutions.

Guterres on Tuesday called on Security Council member states to urge Myanmar to cooperate in solving the humanitarian crisis experienced by Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine state.

Guterres described the situation as "one of the world’s worst humanitarian and human rights crises" in an address to the Security Council.

"I ask members of the Security Council to join me in urging the Myanmar authorities to cooperate with the United Nations, and to ensure immediate, unimpeded and effective access for its agencies and partners," Guterres said.

His remarks come one day after a UN fact-finding mission published a report that said top military officials in Myanmar, including Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing should be investigated for genocide.

Facebook banned the accounts and pages of Myanmar army officials Monday, citing they were spreading hate by attacking the Rohingya Muslim population through social media.

Guterres said the Myanmar government has refused to work with UN human rights groups despite repeated calls by the Security Council to do so.

Recounting a story of when he visited Cox's Bazar in Bangladesh, he discussed the horrific stories that he encountered there.

"One father broke down as he told me how his son was shot dead in front of him. His mother was brutally murdered and his house burned to the ground. He took refuge in a mosque only to be discovered by soldiers who abused him and burned the Quran," the UN chief said.

"Some 130,000 Rohingya remain confined in camps with severe restrictions on their freedom of movement. They have extremely limited access to health, education and other essential services, and to ways of making a living," Guterres added.

On August 25, 2017, Myanmar launched a major military crackdown on the Muslim ethnic minority, killing almost 24,000 civilians and forcing 750,000 others including women and children to flee to Bangladesh, according to the Ontario International Development Agency (OIDA).

The UN documented mass gang rapes, killings — including of infants and young children — brutal beatings, and disappearances committed by Myanmar state forces. The UN has described the Rohingya as the “world's most persecuted people.”

"It is clear that conditions are not yet met for the safe, voluntary, dignified and sustainable return of Rohingya refugees to their places of origin or choice."

Guterres stressed the UN should follow the framework set by former Secretary General Kofi Annan, and as long as there is fear and persecution remains in the Rakhine state, they will not allow refugees to return.

"A year has passed. This crisis cannot continue indefinitely," Guterres said.