Myanmar’s military chief claims that Rohingya Muslim refugees who return to the country will be safe as long as they stay in camp areas and model villages “designated” for them.
“There is no need to be worried about their security if they stay in the areas designated for them,” Senior General Min Aung Hlaing told a United Nations delegation last week, according to a readout of the meeting posted on his official Facebook page on Saturday.
The military official, who controls all security matters in Myanmar, branded Rohingya Muslims as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh or “Bengalis” despite many living there for generations.
The commander-in-chief of the Myanmar armed forces also dismissed as “exaggerated” the accounts of rape and massacre of the persecuted minority group members by government troops, despite widespread and documented evidence to the contrary.
UN Security Council envoys, who have recently concluded a visit to Bangladesh and Myanmar, said Myanmar must conduct a “proper investigation” into alleged atrocities against the Rohingya Muslims in northwestern state of Rakhine.
Myanmar has come under intense criticism since the military launched a deadly crackdown against the Muslim minority in Rakhine in late 2016. Thousands of the Muslims have been killed.
About 700,000 others have fled the predominantly-Buddhist Myanmar to neighboring Bangladesh since August last year, bringing with them horrifying accounts of massacres, gang rape, and arson by Myanmar’s military forces and Buddhist mobs.
The international medics who have examined the refugees have verified that their bodily injuries conform to the accounts of violence, including rape.
The UN has described the violence against the Rohingya as “ethnic cleansing” and possibly “genocide.”
The Muslim community has lived in Myanmar for generations but its members are denied citizenship and are branded illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, which likewise denies them citizenship.
Bangladesh and Myanmar signed an agreement late last year to return the Muslim refugees. The process has been delayed due to the Muslims’ concerns about their safety.