Rohingya crisis: Myanmar army clears itself of wrongdoing

Rohingya crisis: Myanmar army clears itself of wrongdoing

U.S. secretary of state Rex Tillerson said Wednesday that his country was deeply concerned by "credible reports" of atrocities committed by Myanmar's security forces and called for an independent investigation into a humanitarian crisis that has seen hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya flee to Bangladesh.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also raised the Rohingya issue in a meeting with the ASEAN leaders, including Suu Kyi, in Manila on Tuesday.

The report contradicts consistent statements from ethnic Rohingya Muslim refugees now in Bangladesh - some with gunshot wounds and severe burns - who have described massacres, rape, looting and the burning of hundreds of villages by Myanmar's army and civilian mobs.

Speaking at a joint news conference with leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Myanmar's capital, Mr Tillerson said the USA would consider individual sanctions against people found responsible for the violence, but he would not advise "broad-based economic sanctions" against the entire country.

"We're also distressed by the fact that hundreds of thousands, many women and children have been forced to flee to Bangladesh".

"There is overwhelming evidence that the military has murdered and raped Rohingya and burned their villages to the ground", Amnesty said in a statement released on Monday evening.

He earlier held talks with the commander of Myanmar's armed forces, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.

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Myanmar's military issued its most forceful denial yet that security forces committed atrocities during "clearance operations" in the west of the country, saying an internal investigation had absolved them of any wrongdoing in a crisis that has triggered the largest refugee exodus in Asia in decades.

More than 600,000 Rohingya have flooded into Bangladesh since late August, and now live in the squalor of the world's biggest refugee camp.

"The Burmese military's absurd effort to absolve itself of mass atrocities underscores why an independent global investigation is needed to establish the facts and identify those responsible", said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "If we have credible information that we believe to be very reliable that certain individuals were responsible for certain acts that we find unacceptable, then targeted sanctions on individuals very well may be appropriate, " he said.

Late on Monday Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the ongoing humanitarian crisis can likely cause regional instability and radicalization.

Gutteres said at the United Nations in September that the attacks against the Rohingya appeared to be "ethnic cleansing".

Since the crisis began, Guterres said he has called for "unhindered humanitarian access to affected communities and the right to safe, voluntary and dignified return of those who fled, to their places of origin".

The U.N. humanitarian office said Tuesday that the number of Rohingya who have fled Myanmar to Bangladesh since August 25 has risen to 618,000.

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