Myanmar army chief denies rape as United Nations visits


Britain's U.N. envoy on Tuesday suggested the U.N. Security Council could consider helping Myanmar collect evidence of crimes committed during a military crackdown of the Rohingya people, denounced by the world body as ethnic cleansing after most recent bout of persecution of the Muslim minority a year ago.

The 15-member United Nations delegation had flown in from Bangladesh, where some 700,000 Rohingya who fled military-led violence live in refugee camps.

We are waiting to see how the worldwide body will address the issue of repatriation of the Rohingyas, ensuring that all the fundamental causes that led to this massive exodus are removed.

The heart-wrenching photo of the Mohammed Ayoub, who carried his parents barefoot for a week to reach the Cox's Bazaar in Bangladesh, caught global attention in last September as one of the images showcasing the Rohingya's plight.

The envoy, who had earlier visited the Rohingya refugee camps in Bangladesh and Myanmar's restive Rakhine state, was quoted by AFP as saying, "In order to have accountability there must be a proper investigation". The other was for Myanmar's government to hold its own comprehensive inquiry.

Last month the chief prosecutor for the ICC asked judges to consider whether the court's jurisdiction extends to Myanmar, which is not a member of the panel.

"She said what had happened or what was alleged to have happened to some of the Rohingya villagers was not acceptable and that if evidence were available it should be reported to the Burmese authorities and they would investigate", said Pierce.

"It doesn't matter whether it [a probe] is global or domestic, as long as it's credible", she added.

"The Tatmadaw [army] is always disciplined. and takes action against anyone who breaks the law", he told the delegates, according to a post late Monday on his official Facebook page.

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British U.N. Ambassador Karen Pierce told Reuters that during Monday's meeting Min Aung Hlaing was "very forthcoming" on the issue of sexual assaults in Rakhine, adding that the military chief said such offences were "not tolerated". The envoys represent the 15 countries making up the Security Council, the U.N.'s most powerful body.

Now that the high powered delegation is in Myanmar having seen firsthand the plight of the Rohingya refugees, the unspeakable torture they have suffered in their homeland, we expect it to convey to the Myanmar government in no uncertain terms the urgency of resolving the crisis that Myanmar has itself created.

"The other thing the Security Council should do is refer the situation in Rakhine state to the International Criminal Court", Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, said Friday in a speech to journalists in Yangon, Myanmar's largest city.

Another UN diplomat warned it would take "two or three years" for the refugees to be repatriated as the current timeframe to implement the deal continues to slip.

Deputy Russian Ambassador to the UN Dmitry Polyanskiy, whose country has supported Myanmar, however, said yesterday that the council did not have a "magic stick" to resolve one of the world's worst refugee crises.

That has enraged Bangladeshi officials, who accuse Myanmar of pretending to co-operate for the benefit of the global community.

"We can not remain silent about it, and when we go back to NY...we will try to explore ways and means to speed up the implementation of the agreement signed between Bangladesh and Myanmar for safe, free and voluntary and dignified return of the refugees", he added.

The Rohingya have faced discrimination for decades in Buddhist-majority Myanmar where they are denied citizenship and denigrated as illegal "Bengali" immigrants.

It has driven two-thirds of its roughly 1.5 million Rohingya population out since 2012.