Myanmar’s army chief refused his forces committed rape and other sexual abuses during a crackdown he ordered on Rohingya Muslims, as he addressed UN Security Council delegates in the capital Naypyidaw.
Denied access to Myanmar in the months immediately after the crisis, a UN Security Council delegation is making a belated first visit to Myanmar to ratchet up pressure for a safe and dignified return of the Muslim minority.
Late yesterday they met the army chief, who curbs all security matters in the country without oversight from the elected government.
Rohingya women and girls in Bangladesh have provided consistent accounts of sexual violence – reports verified by conflict monitors – but Min Aung Hlaing said his forces have “no such history of sexual abuse.” “It is unacceptable according to the culture and religion of our country,” he said, adding anyone found guilty of crimes would be punished. Myanmar was ready to take back the refugees who could be verified as residents as per repatriation deal with Bangladesh.
Several months after the deal was signed, no refugees have returned. That has enraged Bangladeshi officials, who accuse Myanmar of pretending to co-operate for the benefit of the international community.
Calling the refugees “Bengalis” – official shorthand for illegal immigrants from over the border – Min Aung Hlaing blamed “terrorists” for causing the violence.
The UN delegates will travel by helicopter today over the scarred landscape of northern Rakhine state and give a press conference back in the capital Naypyidaw later in the afternoon.
Their visit to Myanmar comes after an emotionally-charged stay in Bangladesh where Rohingya refugees stated that delegates of their trauma including sexual abuse.
Myanmar denies the Rohingya citizenship and the accompanying rights. It has driven two-thirds of its roughly 1.5 million Rohingya population out since 2012.