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Visiting EU, Suu Kyi Refuses UN Probe Into Alleged Myanmar War Crimes

  • Henry Ridgwell

State Counselor of Myanmar Aung San Suu Kyi, left, is greeted by European Council President Donald Tusk at the Europa building in Brussels on May 2, 2017.

Myanmar's State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has again refused to allow a United Nations probe into alleged atrocities against minority Rohingya Muslims in the east of the country, despite pressure from the European Union and human rights organizations.

“Those recommendations which will divide further the two communities in Rakhine we will not accept, because it will not help us to resolve the problems that are arising all the time,” Suu Kyi told reporters Tuesday following meetings with European Union chiefs in Brussels.

She denied she was ignoring the allegations of crimes against humanity.

“We have not in any way ignored allegations of rape or murder or arson or anything," she said. "We have asked that these be placed before a court and tried.”

Myanmar's military has long been accused of carrying out widespread killing, torture and rape.

A Rohingya refugee girl carries a baby inside a refugee camp in Sitwe, in the state of Rakhine, Myanmar, March 4, 2017.
A Rohingya refugee girl carries a baby inside a refugee camp in Sitwe, in the state of Rakhine, Myanmar, March 4, 2017.

Hundreds die in attack

The latest allegations stem from the army's response to an attack by Rohingya militants on a border post last October. Witnesses say the army responded with ground forces and helicopter gunships, killing around 600 people. Hundreds of women were allegedly raped. Amateur video taken at the time appears to show the charred bodies of adults, children, even babies littering the torched villages.

Thirty-year-old Shamsida fled across the border to Bangladesh along with 75,000 other Rohingya refugees after the attack. She recalls her treatment at the hands of the soldiers:

“After the noon prayers, about 300 to 400 soldiers seized our village and surrounded all our women. They started beating our children and destroyed all our belongings in our homes. At that time, three soldiers raped me.”

Official laments global response

Kyaw Win, secretary general of the Burma Human Rights Network, laments the global response to the evidence of war crimes by Myanmar's military.

“They are not doing it only in Rakhine state, they did it in Karen state, they are doing it in Shan state as well and Kachin state as well," Win said. "But where is the response from the international community? And this failure of this response is not only letting down the victims, this is also indicating that the Burmese government and Burmese army can do similar things in the future.”

Suu Kyi won a landslide election victory in 2016 after the military junta initiated a political transition. The armed forces still control security and domestic affairs.

“We need to focus on the military more than we are focusing on Aung San Suu Kyi. But of course she has a moral duty. She is not saying what she is supposed to say,” Win said.

Myanmar's commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing, inspects officers during a parade to commemorate Myanmar's 72nd Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, March 27, 2017.
Myanmar's commander-in-chief, Min Aung Hlaing, inspects officers during a parade to commemorate Myanmar's 72nd Armed Forces Day in Naypyitaw, Myanmar, March 27, 2017.

Arms embargo in place

An EU arms embargo on Myanmar remains in place. Nevertheless, the head of Myanmar's military, Min Aung Hlaing, visited Germany and Austria last week. Win said Europe is hosting an alleged war criminal.

“His army committed crimes against humanity," Win said. "Yet he's been so warmly welcomed in a civilized world.”

Suu Kyi is to visit London next week, where protests are planned against the alleged atrocities in Rakhine state.

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