Myanmar army chief rejects Rohingya rape allegations as UN visits | News | DW | 01.05.2018

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Myanmar army chief rejects Rohingya rape allegations as UN visits

Myanmar's army chief has denied that his forces committed abuses against Rohingya Muslims. The UN is wrapping up a four-day visit to Myanmar and Bangladesh to investigate the reports.

As UN Security Council envoys continued their mission in Myanmar on Tuesday, the chief of the army rejected accusations that forces under his command had sexually assaulted Rohingya Muslim women and children, .

The UN and human rights organizations have accused General Min Aung Hlaing's forces of murder, rape and pillaging as part of an "ethnic cleansing" campaign in Rakhine state.

Nearly 700,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled their homes in Rakhine state to neighboring Bangladesh since a military campaign was launched in August 2017. Government officials say the campaign is meant to put down an insurgency.

After months of delays, UN Security Council ambassadors finally arrived in Myanmar on Monday after visiting Rohingya refugee border camps in Bangladesh, where the displaced recounted the horrors of killing and rape.

Read more: Tearful Rohingya plead with visiting UN team in Bangladesh

Army chief defiant

In Myanmar, the UN envoys met with Myanmar government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and military Commander-in-Chief Min Aung Hlaing.

"The Tatmadaw  [army] acts and do their tasks under the international laws, rules and regulations. And, action is exactly taken against discipline breakers under the law. These situations happened in northern Rakhine State due to terror acts of extremist Bengali terrorists," Min Aung Hlaing said on his official Facebook page, using a derogatory term for Rohingya. 

The military has control of all security matters in the country without oversight from Suu Kyi and her civilian government.

The military chief called the allegations of sexual violence "abominable on the ground of culture and religion of Myanmar."

"The Tatmadaw severely punishes those offenders in these cases. No sexual violence happened in the history of Myanmar Tatmadaw," he said. 

He also said that Myanmar would take back the refugees who could be verified as citizens of Myanmar as part of a months-old deal with Bangladesh that has seen only a handful of the displaced return.

Read more: Rohingya women: Female Nobel laureates highlight Myanmar sexual violence

The voice of the Rohingya refugees 

Buddhist-majority Myanmar does not consider most Rohingya as citizens, referring to them instead as illegal "Bengalis" from Bangladesh. They have few rights or access to services.

Earlier on Monday, the UN envoys met with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who said Myanmar must take back "their citizens."

After the UN envoy meeting with Suu Kyi, her office said that cooperation was needed from Bangladesh to repatriate refugees. Speaking on condition of anonymity, diplomats said the Nobel Peace Prize winner told them that Myanmar was still struggling to establish rule of law after decades of military dictatorship.

Tuesday is the last of the four-day UN envoy trip to the region, which includes a visit to Rakhine state.

cw/msh (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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