Rohingya can return if 'real Myanmar citizens' accept it

YANGON: Rohingya refugees cannot return to Rakhine State until "real Myanmar citizens" are ready to accept them, the country's army chief said yesterday.

It has cast doubts over government pledges to begin repatriating the persecuted Muslim minority.

More than 600,000 Rohingya are languishing in Bangladeshi refugee camps after fleeing a brutal Myanmar army campaign launched in August.

Myanmar's army chief Min Aung Hlaing has steadfastly denied all allegations of abuse, insisting troops only targeted Rohingya insurgents.

Yesterday, he signalled that repatriation of the Rohingya was a long way off, saying their return must first be accepted by ethnic Rakhine Buddhists - many of whom loathe the Muslim minority and are accused of aiding soldiers in torching their homes.

"Emphasis must be placed on wish of local Rakhine ethnic people who are real Myanmar citizens. Only when local Rakhine ethnic people accept it, will all the people satisfy it (sic)," the statement, written in English, said on his Facebook page.


"It is impossible to accept the number of persons proposed by Bangladesh," the statement said, after branding the refugees as "terrorists" who fled with their families.

Meanwhile, two separate reports have detailed how Myanmar security forces slit the throats of Rohingya Muslims, burned victims alive and gang-raped women and girls.

Human Rights Watch focused on the use of sexual violence in its report on the military's campaign against the Rohingya and concluded that the depredations amounted to crimes against humanity.

A separate report by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and South-east Asia-based Fortify Rights documents "widespread and systematic attacks" on Rohingya civilians between October and December last year, and from Aug 25 of this year.

Asean leaders kept silent over accusations of ethnic cleansing carried out by Myanmar's army in a statement yesterday.

Instead, they expressed support for the country's efforts to bring peace and harmony to northern Rakhine State. - AFP

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