Myanmar's neighbors to call for 'accountability' in Rakhine crisis: draft statement

Myanmar's neighbors to call for 'accountability' in Rakhine crisis: draft statement

Mike Pence, the USA vice-president, and Mahathir Mohamad, Malaysia's prime minister, openly reproached Ms Suu Kyi over the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya, 720,000 of whom have been driven to Bangladesh since past year by the Burmese army.

"The U.S., European Union (EU), Australia, Canada, and others also should press Bangladesh and Myanmar to halt the returns and instead work to create conditions conducive to voluntary repatriation; those countries' participation at the 11-15 November ASEAN summits in Singapore is an opportunity to do so", it said.

Pence met Suu Kyi on the sidelines of an Asia summit in Singapore.

"This is a tragedy that has touched the hearts of millions of Americans", Pence said, as Aung San Suu Kyi sat stoically beside him. He added that he was anxious to hear about progress in resolving the crisis and holding people accountable.

Suu Kyi was brief in her remarks, saying each country knew their own situation best.

Earlier this week, dozens of Rohingya families on the list of refugees to be repatriated began fleeing camps in Bangladesh.

This is while Bangladesh's foreign secretary and refugee commissioner have several times offered assurances that they would not send the Rohingya back against their will.

Amnesty International this week withdrew its most prestigious human rights prize from Ms Suu Kyi, accusing her of perpetuating human rights abuses by not speaking out about violence against the Rohingya. In September, Aung San Suu Kyi defended their arrests, saying they had broken the law and their case has "nothing to do with freedom of expression at all".

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Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday urged Bangladesh to halt the plan, warning that the repatriation would violate worldwide law and put the lives of the refugees at serious risk.

"We are witnessing terror and panic among those Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar who are at imminent risk of being returned to Myanmar against their will", Michelle...

Another senior official said that UNHCR would assess the willingness of the Rohingyas to return to Rakhine, to make sure that no one was forced to leave.

In July, Myanmar established a commission of inquiry to probe allegations of human rights abuses in Rakhine, which includes two local and two global members from Japan and the Philippines.

The draft statement repeated ASEAN's previous calls on the importance of the repatriation of refugees to Myanmar, humanitarian relief and reconciliation among communities, but will apparently go further in calling for accountability for alleged atrocities the United Nations has said constitute crimes against humanity.

Human rights group Amnesty International this week stripped her of its highest honour over what it said was her "indifference" to the plight of the Rohingya.

The two countries had originally agreed to begin repatriating Rohingya last January, but that was called off amid concerns among aid workers and the Rohingya that their safety wasn't guaranteed.

Most people in Buddhist-majority Myanmar do not accept that the Rohingya Muslims are a native ethnic group.

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